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Published April 12, 2013 Updated April 12, 2023

International Playing Cards

Designed by Reuben Townroe (1835-1911), the artist who designed the ornamented terra cotta work on the exterior of the Royal Albert Hall in London.

1874 United Kingdom De la Rue Townroe Political Bézique Add to Collection

De la Rue: “International Playing Cards”

For the marriage of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Alexandra of Russia, 23 January 1874.

Designed by Reuben Townroe (1835‑1911), who also designed the ornamented terra cotta work on the exterior of the Royal Albert Hall in London, the court cards have fine attention to detail and are portrayed as follows:

  Aces Kings Queens Jacks
Spades The President of USA Crown Prince of Russia Empress of Austria Gendarme
Hearts Our Queen King of the Belgians The Princess of Wales Scotland Piper
Clubs German Emperor King of Italy Princess of Germany Switzerland Guide
Diamonds Emperor of Russia The Prince of Wales The Queen of Greece Spain Matador

The backs show the Royal Arms of England, with those of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on a shield of pretence. Below is the double-headed eagle of Prussia, with George and Dragon on a shield of pretence. The whole is surrounded with an ornamental design composed of oak leaves, acorns, thistles, shamrocks and roses.

“International Playing Cards” for the marriage of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Alexandra of Russia on 23 January 1874, printed by De la Rue & Co.

Above: “International Playing Cards” for the marriage of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Alexandra of Russia on 23 January 1874, printed by De la Rue & Co., London. The court cards are double-ended with no indices, the Aces are single-ended with small corner suit symbols. From the collection of Barney Townshend.


REFERENCES

EPCS Newsletter October 2000 p76. Reprinted from an article in The Times of Thursday 3rd December 1874.


Note from Roddy Somerville

For this pack, back colours other than the one shown were also produced, notably green and blue (click to zoom). I have these green- and blue-backed cards in a Bezique set (box top marked "The Royal Game of Bezique"). The game of Bezique had only been introduced into the UK from France about ten years before the marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Alexandra of Russia in 1874. It is said that the Duke of Edinburgh was among those responsible for the spread and popularity of Bezique in the UK as he apparently became addicted to the game while on his travels. Another nice tie-in is that this set was sold by a company in Princes Street, Edinburgh, by the name of James Soutter & Son (see scan of label in box lid). So, cards for Bezique, a game made popular by the Duke of Edinburgh, were being sold in Edinburgh, commemorating the Duke of Edinburgh's marriage.

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.


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