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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

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.

De la Rue: “International Playing Cards”

For the marriage of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Alexandra of Russia on 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.

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

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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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