Arms of English Peers Playing Cards 1688
- First Published: 1688
- Size: 3.9" x 2.5"
In 1644 King Louis XIV of France issued a licence to print certain educational cards. The resulting cards sparked off a great fashion, which spread to Holland, Germany and England, and the most popular and, presumably, “necessary” subject soon emerged as Heraldry or a knowledge of the arms and blazons of not only royalty but also aristocracies. Brianville’s “Arms of the Sovereigns of Europe” (Lyons, 1659) was re-issued in tens of editions and was copied in five countries outside of France over a period of more than eighty years.
The English edition of Brianville may well have inspired the makers of the present pack to produce a domestic, rather than an international, set of cards illustrating the arms of the peers of the United Kingdom. Although the cards are very rare, they must have achieved popularity as they are known in three different editions.
The edition reproduced here was the third and published in 1688. Quite logically, the arrangement of the arms of the peers is made according to rank in each suit, the higher the rank, the higher the card value: archbishops and dukes are clearly superior to earls and barons, the arms of the latter being depicted on the lowest cards in all suits.
It is obvious from the differences which can be observed in the different editions that every effort was made to keep up to date with deaths, successions and creations of titles, which is it measure of the importance attached at that time to having an exact knowledge of contemporary blazons.
The pack of cards reproduced here is from the Print Collection in Guildhall Library, London. The Introductory Note was prepared by Miss Sylvia Mann.