King (playing card)

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King cards of all four suits

The King is a playing card with a picture of a king on it. The usual rank of a king is as if it were a 13 (or 14); that is, above the queen. In some games, the king is the highest-ranked card; in others, the ace is higher. In pinochle, schnapsen, and many other European games, both the ace and the 10 rank higher than the king.

The king of hearts is sometimes called the "suicide king" because he appears to be sticking his sword into his head. However, it is debated[by whom?] whether or not the sword and hand holding it actually belong to the king, due to a different design pattern that could indicate someone else stabbed him. The king of hearts is the only one of the kings without a mustache, whereas the king of diamonds is the only king not depicted carrying a sword, wielding an axe instead giving him the card playing nickname "the man with the axe." Additionally, the king of spades is the only king looking to the right, and the king of clubs is the only one with his weapon's tip on the ground.

In a French deck, the court cards do have names. Because the manufacture of playing cards was illegal in the UK during the Interregnum, when the English Restoration came and the court began playing card games, the suits in an English deck came from the French deck, but without all of the lore. For a period, starting in the 15th century, French playing-card manufacturers assigned to each of the court cards names taken from history or mythology. This practice had largely disappeared by the 19th century.[1] The most common names for the kings were:[2]

King of spades fr.svg
Davida biblical king
King of hearts fr.svg
Charles (presumably after Charlemagne)king of Holy Roman Empire
King of diamonds fr.svg
Caesar (presumably after Julius Caesar)dictator of the Roman Republic
King of clubs fr.svg
Alexanderking of Macedonia and ruler of one of the largest empires of the ancient world

In many card games, when all four kings are acquired by a single player, they are commonly called "the four horsemen".

King of Coins (Diamonds), King of Swords (Spades), King of Batons (Clubs), King of Cups (Hearts): four kings from a Spanish deck

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Four King Truth" at the Urban Legends Reference Pages
  2. ^ "Courts on playing cards", by David Madore, with illustrations of the Anglo-American and French court cards