To celebrate Triumph and Treasure’s release today, I’ll be giving away a digital copy of the book to one commenter.
As anyone who reads or writes Regency is aware, card games were a very popular pastime. Whether it be loo, hazard, whist, piquet, or vingt-et-un, and literally scores more, the haut ton liked their playing cards as well as their gambling.
Card parties were all the thing, as were card rooms at various assembly rooms and balls. Card games were played at picnics, long carriage rides, quiet evenings at home … truthfully, just about any time a diversion was needed. And let’s not forget gaming “hells” or gentlemen’s clubs such as White’s or Brooks’s and the lives that were forever changed with the flip of a card.
But this article isn’t about gambling or the card games. It’s about the playing cards themselves. For Triumph and Treasure, I had to research if playing cards in 1818 could be customized. The despicable Duke of Waterford marked his card in order to win a bet against Flynn’s father, the Marquis of Bretheridge during a game of piquet at White’s.
Flynn doesn’t learn of the marked cards until well into the story, however. It’d a good thing too. Otherwise, he and Angelina would never have been forced together.
Any, back to the cards.
The English refer to a set of playing cards as a pack, whereas Americans call them a deck.
The earliest known evidence of playing cards games has been traced to 9th China, and decks containing four suits to 12th century China, though I read more than once that etymological evidence suggests playing cards were Moorish (Arabic) in origin. I also found several references to playing cards and the Romans. The English pattern we are accustomed to, spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds, first appeared in France in around 1480, though some sites suggested 1470 was more accurate.
The Europeans are credited with giving cards their faces, and the number of cards in a deck varied from 48-56 until the late 15th century when 52 cards became the standard. The Joker wasn’t introduced until the 1800s by Americans. Prior to widespread production, cards were stenciled and hand colored. Credit for the first printed cards is attributed to Germany in the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the mid -1830s that cards were mass produced in London.
I’ve always thought of a deck of cards as inexpensive entertainment, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. The backs of playing cards weren’t standardized, and if one had nice, deep pockets, cards could be customized. It was expensive since the cards were hand painted. Gambling clubs often had their own cards printed to prevent fuzzing, or the marking of cards, and one was expected to provide new cards for each table at card parties and the like.
One site said that playing cards had blank backs until the 1800s so they could be used as calling cards, but my research showed many, many cards with patterns engraved, stenciled, or painted on them.
So, while playing cards was almost universally obsessive during the Regency Era, the cards themselves were rather more unique. I included a couple links below that have some lovely images of vintage playing cards.
Triumph and Treasure
(Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series)
A disillusioned Scottish gentlewoman.
Angelina Ellsworth once believed in love—before she discovered her husband of mere hours was a slave-trader and already married. To avoid the scandal and disgrace, she escapes to her aunt and uncle’s, the Duke and Duchess of Waterford. When Angelina learns she is with child, she vows she’ll never trust a man again.
A privileged English lord.
Flynn, Earl of Luxmoore, led an enchanted life until his father committed suicide after losing everything to Waterford in a wager. Stripped of all but his title, Flynn is thrust into the role of marquis as well as provider for his disabled sister and invalid mother. Unable to pay his father’s astronomical gambling loss, Flynn must choose between social or financial ruin.
When the duke suggests he’ll forgive the debt if Flynn marries his niece, Flynn accepts the duke’s proposal. Reluctant to wed a stranger, but willing to do anything to protect her babe and escape the clutches of the madman who still pursues her, Angelina agrees to the union. Can Flynn and Angelina find happiness and love in a marriage neither wanted, or is the chasm between them insurmountable?
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ENJOY AN EXCERPT
Flynn stared at Yancy before turning his focus to the playing card lying atop his desk. “It’s marked, yes. How do you know it’s the duke’s?”
“A footman found it wedged beneath the cushion of the chair Waterford sat in.” Yancy scratched his chin. He leaned forward and flipped the card over, tapping the illustration. “And it’s hand-painted. Notice the fine red diagonal line on our friend, the king, here?”
He ran a manicured nail along the narrow crimson strip.
Flynn bent closer, then rolled a shoulder. “So? Custom cards always differ somewhat.”
A satisfied grin split Yancy’s face. “How many have family crests boasting a red banner? Waterford couldn’t resist having that detail added, the pompous arse.”
“You’re familiar with his crest?” Flynn picked up the card again. His father had no doubt touched this very one, unaware it was marked—or that he would be compelled to take his life as a result of the duke’s cheating.
The marking was clever. An insignificant scratch, really. Unless one knew what to search for.
Flynn and Yancy did.
“Waterford’s such a pretentious old bugger, he uses every excuse to flaunt his position and wealth.” Yancy laughed harshly. A ruthless glint entered his eye. “I’ll wager I can find the artist who painted it. Maybe even the deck missing this card. You could squash Waterford like an ant beneath your toe with either of those. If you wanted to.”
He casually reclined in the leather wingback and took a sip of brandy, waiting for Flynn’s reply.
Do I want to?
Question for Romantic Pursuit.
What detail did Waterford add to the cards he had made?
E.K. Duncan-My Fanciful Muse; http://historicalromanceuk.blogspot.com/2012/08/play-at-cards.html
Historical and Regency Romance UK; http://voices.yahoo.com/10-things-didnt-know-deck-playing-6459412.html?cat=37
White Knuckle Cards; http://whiteknucklecards.com/history/briefhistory.html
The World of Playing Cards; http://www.wopc.co.uk/history/
The International Playing Card Society; http://www.i-p-c-s.org/history.html
Playing card images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons