Ancient Cards History: Jacks

We all play casino online games and popular blackjack or poker. But, do you know the history of Jacks? First thing you’ve got to know about these cards is that they used to be called ‘Knaves’, after certain servants of the King or Queen. The abbreviation of the card, displayed in the index of the card, was ‘Kn’. However, this one was confused a lot with the ‘K’ from the Kings, so they changed it to ‘Jack’ (‘J’). As you all know there are four different Jacks out there and although they don’t represent anyone in particular in the Anglo-Saxon world of cards, they do in French decks. Here are the first two historical/mythological figures:

Jack of Diamonds

The Jack of diamonds is supposed to represent ‘Hector’. Hector origins from the Greek mythology, being the son of the Trojan king Priamos. This guy was considered the most important protector of Troy during the Trojan war. One thing particularly helped him to stay alive during this war: he was prohibited to meet Achilles (his great Greek rival), thanks to a prediction of a prophet. So each time Achilles didn’t feel like fighting, Hector troubled the Greek army.

So everything went pretty smooth for Hector, till he decided to kill Patroclus, a nephew of Achilles. Achilles got really pissed off by this and he challenged Hector for an heads-up.  Achilles pwned this match and really kicked the hell out of Hector. While dying, Hector begged Achilles to transfer his body to Priamos, but Achilles refused, tied the body to his chariot and drove him three times around town, quite a humiliation. He then left him to the dogs but the Gods protected Hector’s body from further damage.

But Achilles wasn’t finished yet: each day he dragged Hector nine times around the grave of Patroklos, refusing to hand over the body to the Trojans. As you can see, this Achilles guy was not somebody to mess around with. Zeus himself was needed to convince Achilles of giving the body to Priamos, which he did after receiving a huge ransom. So be careful with this card, this Hector can get you into great trouble when you’re overconfident.

Jack of Clubs

The Jack of clubs stands for ‘Lancelot’. Lancelot takes part in the legend of King Arthur, whose characters were never proven to have really existed.  Lancelot was the right-hand man of King Arthur and one of the Knights of the Round Table. According to the legend, Lancelot and Arthur were good friends. However, Lancelot couldn’t hold his hands off Arthur’s wife Guinevere, which damaged the unity between the knights of the king.

Before Lancelot started his booming career as a knight, he was just an outlaw in search of some freedom. Lancelot becomes an hero after he saves Guinevere from the enemy one day, consequently receiving a fixed seat at the Round Table as ‘Sir Lancelot’. But when he betrays Arthur, Lancelot is banned from castle Camelot (the place they used to gather for knights stuff), ending up as a slumdog again. So never bluff with this card, as your opponent will find out the truth and will leave you behind without any money.

Welcome back, people of the poker scene. As announced last time, we’ll discuss the remaining two Jacks today, the Jack of hearts and the Jack of spades. All part of our history lessons here. Goal: know what you’re playing with.

Jack of Hearts

Contrary to our two friends from last time, the Jack of hearts represents a figure who has actually lived in our real world. We’re talkin more specifically about Étienne de Vignolles, better known as ‘La Hire’. This guy was a French military leader during the Hundred Years’ War. As you might know (or not), this is a generic term for a long series of conflicts between the kings of England and France (1337-1453). One of his buddies in this war was the prolly more famous Jeanne d’Arc.

La Hire decided to join the army of Charles VII in 1418, when this fella was king of France. Problem for Charles was that Henry VI (king of England) thought hé was also king of France, leading to some serious fighting. La Hire supported Charles when the English army invaded France in 1418. He was quite successful, as he was promoted as captain-general of Normandy. But then he died because of some kind of unknown disease. So you can go to war with his card, don’t hesitate to play it.

Jack of Spades

The real name of the Jack of spades is ‘Ogier the Dane’. This is also a character from a legend, so it’s real existence was never proven. Ogier acquired his portion of fame by appearing in so called ‘chansons de geste’. This may sound a little gay but in fact, those are songs tributed to certain guys who are known for heroic deeds.  Those songs date from the 11th and 12th century, when La Hire couldn’t even dream of appearing on a card yet.

Not much more to tell about this guy, as our friend Ogier was not connected to any historical Danish event whatsoever. So I guess the creator of this figure just lobbied a freaking lot to get his creation on one of the playing cards. It’s up to you to decide if and when you want to play this card: this card is surrounded by mystery.

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