Alexander, le Roy de treffle, from the English/ Anglo-American pattern (“poker” cards).
- from Rouen, dated about 1567 and manufactured by Pierre Marechal
- my pack, about 1600
- London, 1750
- modern Bicycle
Notice that the pattern allows for design advancement (double headed, for example) but it appears the strongest influence for centuries is a sort of printer’s game of telephone, where subtle distortions caused by less skilled craftsmen who became further and further from the source material. It should be noted that the attire on some cards predates the earliest known examples by decades.
Let’s look at a different king…
(Left to Right, top to bottom)
1. late 15th century, probably Lyons
2. 1567 Rouen pack
3. Latin suited pack, late 16th century,
reproduced by Simon Wintle
4. London, about 1750
5. Guyenne pattern, 1777
6. Modern Bicycle
This so-called “suicide king” is found in many packs over the centuries, including the Provence and Languedoc patterns as well. He has suffered the effects of this telephone game, and over time the battle axe of an attacking king becomes more obscure in its rather cramped space. English card makers ultimately turned this axe into a sword.
Any implications of suicide, or even murder from another court card, are late introductions.
The mirror image versions and flexibility with suits are also a side-effect of copying, passing on equipment, tax ordinances, etc.