Don’t play your medieval games with just any deck of cards… play with a period deck!
The deck includes suit symbols representative of Celtic lore – shamrocks, swords, Claddagh, and Celtic knots. Since Ireland came under English rule through much of its medieval history, our royal court includes King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and the Knights of the Round Table (because we couldn’t pick just one). The designs chosen for this deck of cards are not historical reproductions. They are our renditions of a medieval period card deck. As was the custom of the day, our cards do not have a design on the back and are printed in black with the exception of the face cards. Each deck comes in a draw string muslin bag.
A Brief History of Playing Cards
Playing Cards are thought to have originated in China in the 12th or 13th century and spread through India and Persia and finally to Europe by the late 14th century. First European references date from 1370s from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.
Suit systems varied but generally used common, regional objects such as swords, coins, acorns, cups, etc. Common European suits included:
Latin (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese): Chalice, swords, coins, batons
Germanic (German & Swiss): Hearts, acorns, hand bells, leaves
French (adopted as the international system now): Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, Clubs
Reversible court cards (showing only torso and head) first appeared around 1745 in France. Up until then, court cards were drawn in full length (head, torso, and legs). Originally, there were no queens on the decks but rather kings, chevaliers, and knaves. Jokers were not introduced until the mid-19th century.
Red & Black suits were added in France in the 17th century. Backs of cards were left blank and served as a convenient source of paper and were often used for invitations, love letters, and even currency.
For additional information on the history of cards, check out these sites.