I am on a mailing list for historical games and Michael
Hurst recently submitted a posting on the
use of Tarot cards in England.
I liked it so much that I have copied it here for all to see.
Regarding mid-17th century games in England, in the Preface to his The
Game of Tarot, Michael Dummett quotes a snippet from James Cleland?s
1607 Institution of a Young Nobleman. The passage runs: "His Maiesties
[King James I] permission of honest house games, as Cardes, French
Cardes, called Taraux, Tables and such like plaies, is sufficient to
protect you from the blame of those learned men, who thinke them
hazards; as for myself, I thinke it great simplicitie and rusticitie in
a nobleman to be ignorant of any of them, when he cometh into companie:
yea I would wish you to be so perfit in them all, that you may not be
deceived or cousened at play." (The passage has been mentioned by
playing-card historians going back to Singer in 1816.) A young English
nobleman might naturally desire familiarity with the pastimes of
Continental nobility, and Tarot was certainly such a game.
Dummett writes that "such occasional references do not controvert the
proposition that neither in Spain
nor in England
has the game ever been
generally known." This is a reasonable conclusion in the absence of
additional evidence, but the claim that some "permission" had been
for Tarot suggests that the game was sufficiently well known to generate
official notice. It also suggests that a document, recording some such
official notice, might be lurking undiscovered. Cleland might have been
referencing a specific permission mentioning Tarot (rather than simply
cards) granted a couple decades prior to the famous declaration (the
"Book of Sports") of King James
I, or his 1620 license to Clement Cottrell.
An 1861 essay by William Pinkerton,
in Notes and Queries, mentions the
Cleland passage and discusses other documents which indicate that Tarot
cards were in fact printed in England
during the late16th century. A
card maker named Bowes appears to have produced them.
Patents for Inventions:
Abridgments of Specifications Relating to Printing, p.56-57
By Great Britain Patent Office, 1859
Printed by G.E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode
A.D. 1571, June 13.
PATENT to RAFFE BOWES
and THOMAS BEDINGFIELD,
Esquires, to import playing cards into this kingdom, and dispose of them in
large or small quantities, notwitstanding any Act, &c. formermade, &c.
A.D. 1588, October 18.
ALLOWANCE by the Stationers' Company to RAFFE or RALPH
BOWES. "The whole sute of mouldes
belonging to the olde
"fourme of plaieinge cardes, commonly called the French cardes, "with
the Jew Cisian dozen, and all other thinges thereunto "belonging.
Item.--The newe addition of the whole sute of "new Mouldes belonging to
the olde and newe forme of playeing "cards, commonly called the French
cards, with the Jew Cisian "dozen, and all other things thereunto
A.D. 1589, January 8.
ALLOWANCE by the Stationers' Company to RAFFE or RALPH
BOWES (ante, p.50) to be printed, "the wholle sute of carved "mouldes
in woode or caste in mettal belonging to the oulde "fourme of playing
cardes, commonly called the French carde, "with the Jew Cisian dozen, and
all other things thereunto "belonging."
A.D. 1590-1, January 12.
ENTRY at Stationers' Hall for RAFFE or RALPH
"print these markes folowing, which are to bind up cards in, "viz., a
dozen m'ke. Jtem, a Sizian m'ke. Item, a Jew m'ke."
In his essay, Pinkerton explains the bizarre "Jew Cisian
reference by noting that the 78-card Tarot deck (and the game) is jeu
soixante-dix-huit (zhew swahsah(n)t-dee-zweet), which might readily be
corrupted into "jew cisian dozen". This fits perfectly with the
playing-card context of the entries, and the reference to the "French
cardes", the same term used by Cleland two decades later: "French
Cardes, called Taraux". Pinkerton wrote:
"With deference, but thorough confidence in the correctness of my
opinion, I would suggest that the words "Jew Cisian dozen" are a
corruption of Jeu soixante-dix-huit, a phrase still used in France to
designate a pack of tarots; just as, in contradistinction, the pack of
common playing- cards is termed jeu de cinquante-deux. I scarcely need
to observe, that the word jeu signifies a pack, as well as a game or
play of cards : the German spiel karten, having exactly the same literal
signification. I consider, then, that the ?Jew Cisian dozen? meant a
pack of tarots, which contains seventy-eight cards; and the ?old form of
plaienge cardes, commonlie called the Frenche carde,? was no other than
Pinkerton also gives a specific anecdote showing how travelers
have become familiar with the game. He quotes an 18th-century account
from Lady Miller's Letters
written in 1770-71 and published
in 1776. Discussing Prince Charles Edward Stuart, (the Young Pretender
was born in Italy, and "spent almost all of his childhood in Rome and
Bologna", so the tale is probably true), Lady Miller acknowledged that
the Pretender was an affront, not to be spoken to by a decent English
gentleman loyal to the Crown. However, "it struck me as very ridiculous
for me, a woman, not to reply to the Pretender if he spoke to me, as
such a caution would bear the appearance of passing myself for being of
political consequence; added to these considerations, I had great
curiosity to see him and hear him speak." Her conversation was related,
including the following discussion about Tarot, which they were about to
play. This is her account:
"This evening, after quitting the Cardinal's, we were at the Princess
Palestrine's conversazione, where he was
also. He addressed me as
politely as the evening before. The Princess desired me to sit by her;
we played with him: he asked me, if I understood the game of Tarocchi,
(what they were about to play at); I answered in the negative, upon
which, taking the pack in his hands, he desired to know if I had ever
seen such odd cards: I replied, that they were very odd indeed; he then
displaying them said, Here is every thing in the world to be found in
these cards, the sun, the moon, the stars; and here, says he, (showing
me a card) is the Pope; here is the Devil, (and added) there is but one
of trio wanting, and you know who that should be. I was so amazed, so
astonished, though he spoke this last in a laughing, good-humoured
manner, that I did not know which way to look; and as to a reply, I made
none, but avoided cultivating conversation as much as possible, lest he
should give our conversation a political turn."
In any case, there appear to have been (assuming Pinkerton's
interpretation is correct) Tarot cards produced in England
in the late
16th century and recognized as a permitted game and a desirable social
skill (for young noblemen, who might well play the game when abroad) in
early 17th century England.
The returns relate to the years 1641- 42, around the start
of the Civil War. The Protestation was an Oath of loyalty to Parliament and to
the King, and was originally drawn up and taken by the members of the House of
Commons on 3rd of May 1641, the House of Lords rejected it but the commons sent
out the oath anyway.
On the 30th July the House of Commons passed a resolution that all who refused
the Protestation were unfit to hold office in Church or Commonwealth. The scope
was widened so that it should be sworn by all adult males, in some parishes
officials also recorded females, in others it seems some families had only the
Head signing or making a mark.
During the earlier stages of the return, collecting signatures and marks to
swear loyalty; seemed to go hand in hand with a "Collection in Aid of
Distressed Protestants in Ireland".
A valid reason for Catholics to avoid it perhaps?. Avoidance could be difficult
though, as a team or bench of local dignitaries (constables, magistrates,
clergy, overseers etc) who would know of most inhabitants of the parish - heard
their Oath & witnessed it.
I, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ do, in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and
protest to maintain, and defend as farr as lawfully I maye, with my Life, Power
and Estate, the true Reformed Protestant religion, expressed in the Doctrine of
the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish Innovations, within this
Realme, contrary to the same Doctrine, and according to the duty of my
Allegiance, His Majesties Royal Person, Honour and Estate, as alsoe the Power
and Privileges of Parliament, the lawful Rights and Liberties of the Subjects,
and any person that maketh this Protestation, in whatsoever he shall do in the
lawful Pursuance of the same: and to my power, and as farr as lawfully I may, I
will appose and by all good Ways and Means endeavour to bring to condign
Punishment all such as shall, either by Force, Practice, Councels, Plots,
Conspiracies, or otherwise, doe any thing to the contrary of any thing in this
present Protestation contained: and further, that I shall, in all just and
honourable ways, endeavour to preserve the Union and Peace betwixt the Three
Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland: and neither for Hope, Feare, nor
other Respect, shell relinquish this Promise, Vow and Protestation.
I have been able to find a few lists of names taken in verious parishes
around the country and they range from 120 names to 300 names in a parish. All
were men and titles such as Church Warden, Minnister, Overseer of the poor and Constable
were put next to some of the names. Though all parishes had only one named
minister, they would often have two church wardens and sometimes as many as
Given that a parish had a minimum of 120 males over 18 it is reasonable to
assume that about a third of those would be of fighting age. That means each
parish would have around 40 men of fighting age. Since the Strafford
and Tickhill (now South Yorkshire) Wapentake had 261
parishes, it is reasonable to assume that area had more than 10,000 men to
draw from. I find it interesting to note that 40 adult males could be called
upon to be part of the trained bands so that a local parish might only have
that many drilling on a sunday afternoon. Some would be horse and could be
driling elsewhere so that around 25 to 30 reenactors would be a true
representation of trained band drill in the period for one parish.