A Bit of History

A deck of cards and especially the Suicide King od Hearts is full of mysteries and puzzles.

One of the most fascinating is that of “the man without a moustache”, the King of Hearts, above all for the position of the sword, for which he took the name of Suicide King.

The King of Hearts was called Charles, probably deriving from Charlemagne. He is the only King without a moustache, in a dynamic position brandishing a sword. The greatest mystery is precisely the sword, which, according to some, is not in a position to commit suicide, but rather in the act of defending itself from an attack, or launching it.

Charlemagne passed into history as a conqueror, his empire was vast, and he was declared emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III. It appears to have died of a lung infection in 814. It is therefore not exactly the kind of person who would be hit the head with a sword.

But the legend of Suicide King continues however. There are some films with this name, an album by musician Roy Orbison, printed after his death, is called “King of Hearts”; some very believing magicians who make Gospel Magic consider the King of Hearts the figure that represents sacrifice and therefore Jesus.
The King of Hearts remains a special and emblematic card, like the two one-eyed jacks.

King of Hearts Card

The King of Hearts: Chalemagne

Suicide King of Hearts: Story Behind the Myth

The Card (Re)Designs Through History

The design of the cards comes from a model of cards produced in 1565 by the French Pierre Marechal of Rouen. The four seeds hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs probably prevailed because they were easier and cheaper to reproduce and the figures infantryman, queen and king were drawn in full-length, with legs and feet.

The graphics with the design of Rouen define both the position of the faces and the objects that are held in the hand by the figures, such as the axe, the swords or the undefined object denied by the jack of spades. The French began to call the figures with the names of legendary heroes or historical figures, and the names were printed on the cards until the eighteenth century.

The indications of the value of the cards on the corners and edges begin to appear in the mid-nineteenth century to allow you to keep the cards close together in a fan shape with one hand and still control them all.
The next innovation was the symmetrical figures (or “two-headed”), so that a player was not tempted to flip the card to get it straight, as this could give indications to the other players which cards he had in hand.

Card Designs Through History

The Three Figures

The figures of the cards then changed to represent the European royal families and their vassals, originally “kings”, “knights” and “servants”.
In the 16th century the figures on the cards produced by the artisans of the French city of Rouen depict.

  • The Kings were:
    King of Spades: David, second king of Israel
    King of Hearts: Charlemagne, king of the Franks and Lombards and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
    King of Diamonds: Julius Caesar, dictator, considered by some historians the first Roman emperor, though not formally
    King of Clubs: Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia.
  • The Queens:
    Queen of Spades: Athena, daughter of Zeus, goddess of wisdom, wisdom, weaving and the arts
    Queen of Hearts: Rachel, biblical character, wife of Jacob
    Queen of diamonds: Argine, perhaps a cripple of Argeia, princess of Argos
    Queen of Clubs: Judith, biblical character, heroine of the Jewish people.
  • The Jacks:
    Jack of Spades: Hector, hero of Greek mythology, son of Priam
    Jack of Hearts: Etienne de Vignoles, French leader during the Hundred Years’ War
    Jack of Diamonds: Uggeri the Danish, vassal of Charlemagne
    Jack of Clubs: Judas Maccabeus, hero of the Jewish rebellion against the oppression of King Antiochus IV, ruler of Syria and the Palestinian area.
Suicide King of Hearts: Story Behind the Myth

The Figures

In early games kings are the most valuable card, with no exceptions. As early as the end of the fifteenth century, a special meaning began to be given to the nominally lower value card, now called ace, so as to make it of greater value (and give the lesser value to 2).

“Suicide” King of Hearts

Over the centuries the drawing has become more schematic and some details have been lost. The king of hearts initially brandished an axe above his head and not a sword, which is why, today, he is nicknamed the suicide king.

The story has it that after the death of two of his three sons, Charlemagne began to show signs of mental imbalance. In reality, Carlo lay in bed consumed from the diseases becoming weaker and weaker until he died.

There are a lot of stories around his death, a Creepy Pasta that almost sounds credible if you didn’t know the real cause of Charlemagne death says that during that period he was used to spend his time fiddling with a deck of cards. Charles was obsessed with the idea that the king, the thirteenth dressed card, was bringing him bad luck. He told several times how he began to see the number 13 appear everywhere and that he was close to understanding the secret. Of course, his ramblings were blamed, he was declared insane, then he abdicated and his son Louis XII took his place.
One day, several months after the end of his reign, one of the court doctors reached his rooms to find the frail old man standing in the middle of the room, wielding a massive sword. Before the doctor could do anything, the king said: “Ils m’ont montré la vérité du treize et ce n’est pas fais pour les yeux des motels.” which can be roughly translated “They have shown me the truth of thirteen, and it is not the preserve of mortal eyes.” Without hesitation the king had his head pierced by the blade (between his ear and his temple) until the other end came out. He hesitated a minute before collapsing to the ground, dead.
After the incident it was announced that the king had gone mad, the image of Charles the King of hearts was then altered to show him while he was injured.

Perhaps the strangest part of the whole story, however, is the day when Charles chose to die: 07/06/1462. Whether intentional or not, the fact is that: 6 + 7 = 13 and 1 + 4 + 6 + 2 = 13 can only be understood as a coincidence.
It should be noted that Charles was the only one of the four kings still alive to see his own face printed on a playing card.

Other stories and legends

The King of Hearts is the only king without a mustache.

There is also an alchemical symbol recalled by the bow of the mustache: the shape of the falling moon. Since the Moon is associated with intuition and to perception.
An English legend tells of a king who lived with 4 children and had planned to divide the kingdom among those with mustaches. One of the sons did not have them and would not receive an inheritance. This is, according to the English, the origin of the idea that there are three kings with mustaches and one without.

According to others, the association of the heart with sublime and noble feelings gives the king of hearts no mustache: the heart is the purest organ in the body, it has no disguises, so no mustache.

Another theory sees as a cause of the loss of the mustache a printing error that was formerly made with wooden blocks that were easily consumed with use.


Japanese Style Tattoos
Alice in Wonderland Illustration – Disney

Suicide King of Hearts: Story Behind the Myth

Alice in Wonderland

King of Disney Hearts

Finally, as far as height is concerned, don’t be fooled by Disney! Surely everyone will remember the tiny character that barely reaches the height of the Queen’s life (including the crown). In the book it is absolutely not such a speck, it is only a ploy to contrast it even more with such a disruptive character wife!

Sir John Tenniel, the first official illustrator of Carroll’s books, presents him as a benevolent big man in a somewhat advanced age (as he needs reading glasses to read the paperwork of the process), with well-groomed hair, beard and mustache . During the process, he also wears the usual judge wig.

The King of Hearts in Cartomancy

The king of hearts presents a mature character with a benevolent gaze. An emblematic figure in cartomancy, the king of hearts evokes abundance and economic success. Notable character, seduces thanks to his intelligence and his culture.

The king of hearts indicates that the consultant is protected. Its interpretation changes according to the sex of the consultant. If the consultant is a woman, it can represent marriage to a rich and powerful man. If the consultant is a man, instead, he can represent an older friend, respectable and capable of good advice, who, in case of need, could come to his aid, both financially and morally.

In its negative dimension, the king of hearts can represent an important obstacle. It can be an individual who will try to destroy your sentimental or professional projects, or an opponent who will try to seduce the one you love.


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