What Is A French Face Card In A Card Deck?

What Is A French Face Card In A Card Deck?

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Cards are not just aesthetically pleasing due to all those varied designs but also weave interesting stories through their depictions. Puzzled? Then pick up the nearest card deck and look at the face or court cards. The kings, queens, and jacks/ knaves are no random royalty – they are historical or mythical personas you might have heard, seen or read about. If your curiosity has been piqued, then read on to learn more!

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The Origins Of The French face Cards

While historians continue to debate the origins of the playing cards, a known fact is that these cards were introduced in Europe by Egypt in the 15th Century AD. The Europeans modified these cards to suit their tastes and preferences and ensured that the face cards in the deck represented their royalty and famous figures.

Origins of French face cards

Standard Patterns Of French face Cards

The French pattern of cards is known as the standard pattern based on the deck size and artwork. The cards consist of the following suits, namely, the rèfles (clovers or clubs), the carreaux (tiles or diamonds), the cœurs (hearts), and piques (pikes or spades). Each of these suits has three face cards known as the Roi (king), the Dame (Queen) and the Valet (Knave or Jack).

The cards have several regional variations like the Parisian pattern, the Lombard and Tuscan pattern, the Lyonnais pattern, etc. The English pattern, based on the Rouennais pattern, is the most well-known pattern in the world.

Since these cards were introduced in Europe when society was male-centric, the face cards contained only the knaves (or jacks as we know them now) and the kings. Germany first introduced a queen card and has been a part of the deck ever since. It is believed that the queens first appeared in the Tarot cards, following which the Germans abandoned two kings and replaced one with a queen. Also, note that the Joker is a recent addition to the pack of cards and bears no such historical background.

French face cards

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Who Is Who In French Face Cards?

The French chose the following figures to signify their takeover of the playing cards in the 16th Century AD. Though these figures are often depicted, variations may be found here and there.

Let’s meet the kings first,

King of spades David He is best known as the brave king of Israel of the 11th Century, who slayed the gigantic Goliath with a single skilful throw of a stone.
Kings of hearts Charlemagne or Charles the First Best known as the Father of Europe or the King of Italy and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the First, is credited to having united nearly the whole of Western Europe under his name, a feat achieved for the first time after the Roman Empire.
King of diamonds Julius Caesar The General, Consul and Dictator of the Republic of Rome in the 1st century AD, his name has been popularised by Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. He was known for having created an empire that spans the whole of Western Europe.
King of clubs Alexander the Great The great king of Macedonia, Alexander, was believed to have created one of the largest empires of the ancient world that stretched from the blue expanses of the Ionian Sea to the mighty Himalayas. He is considered to be one of the most successful commanders of all times.

The elegant, majestic queens follow these French face cards,

Queen of spades Pallas Athena Greek mythology names Athena as the goddess of wisdom and courage. She has always been an inspiring figure for bards and literati and umpteen number of songs, monuments, and literature have been made in her honour.
Queen of hearts Judith A daring Jewish widow, Judith finds mention in the Book of Judith of the Old Testament as the saviour of Israeli people from Assyrian oppression. She is believed to have slayed General Holofernes to protect her people.
Queen of diamonds Rachel Mother of Benjamin and Joseph, Rachel, is a biblical figure known to have courageously led Israel’s tribes in exile from Egypt.
Queen of clubs Argine The Queen of Clubs represents lady Argea, the mythological mother of Argus, who built the ship Argo from the Ancient Greek story of Jason and the Argonauts.

Not to forget the knaves in French face cards too!

Jack of spades Ogier the Dane The son of King of Denmark, Ogier the Dane, is known for his heroic act of slaying the giant Brehus while he fought by King Charles the First side against the Saracens.
Jack of hearts La Hire Étienne de Vignolles, a French military commander during the 100 years’ war, is known to be the consort of Joan of Arc. He fought by her side in the Battle of Orleans.
Jack of diamonds Hector Hector, the son of the great king Priam, was the greatest known fighter in Troy. He fought against Achilles in the Trojan war in the defence of Troy and managed to kill nearly thirty-one thousand Greek fighters in toto.
Jack of clubs Judas Maccabeus or Lancelot There exist two figures that might be attributed to this card namely, Judas Maccabeus or Sir Lancelot. While Judas Maccabeus was a Jewish priest who led the Maccabean revolt, Sir Lancelot is famed as one of King Arthur’s beloved, trusted knights and the beloved of Queen Guinevere (King Arthur’s wife).

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Knowing all this history will bring your game to life. It is not just some king and queen you are playing in your hand, but Caesar or Alexander rooting for you to win. You can almost visualise these significant, heroic figures battling it out for you. And now, with this newfound, profound knowledge of your card deck, we wish you – ‘happy playing’!

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What are the French Face Cards in a Card Deck?

  • French face cards are the King, Queen, and Jack cards seen in conventional playing card decks. These face cards often show monarchy and have distinct designs, which vary depending on the deck's style.

What are the different suits represented on French face cards?

  • French face cards are categorised into four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. Each suit has its own set of face cards (King, Queen, and Jack) with distinct graphic interpretations.

Do French Face Cards have unique characteristics in different decks?

  • While the overall notion of French face cards is the same across standard decks, individual designs may differ. The appearance of the King, Queen, and Jack cards may vary depending on the playing card manufacturer or creative style used.

What are the point values for French face cards?

  • In many card games, face cards have distinct point values. In French face cards, the King is frequently accorded the highest point value, followed by the Queen and finally the Jack. However, in certain games, these cards may not have any inherent point value.

Are french face cards exclusive to French Decks?

  • No, French face cards are not exclusive to French decks. The term "French" refers to the standard international design commonly found in playing cards. French face cards are often found in decks used for card games all around the world.
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