Playing Cards and Their Evolution in the UK

Card games have brought entertainment to generations. And even though we now have more modern forms of entertainment, they are still an essential item to pack on long flights, camping trips, and games nights. But how have playing cards evolved, and more importantly, how did they come about? We take a look at the evolution of playing cards in the UK, right here.

What are the most popular card games in the UK?

The most popular card games in the UK are games you can play socially like cribbage (also known as crib), solitaire, rummy, go fish, hearts, round the clock, and snap. But the popularity of these games is now dwarfed by casino card games, such as poker and blackjack. The birth of online casinos has created even more interest in card games, leading to the growth of blackjack and poker players the length and breadth of the UK. Away from the standard deck of cards, other popular playing card games in the UK include Uno, Top Trumps, and Cards Against Humanity.

How did playing cards originate?

Playing cards originated in China during the 9th Century on the Gregorian calendar. This was the period of the Tang dynasty, and at the same time in Old Blighty, Alfred the Great was reigning over Wessex and had taken his place as the more dominant king of England.

How did playing cards get to England?

Playing cards travelled to many nations from China, spreading through other parts of Asia and Persia before reaching Egypt. It wasn’t until the latter stages of the 14th Century that playing cards made their way into Europe but did not get to England straight away. We know this because Ian Mortimer – author of Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England – stated that playing cards were not around during the 14th Century, but it wouldn’t be long before they would make an arrival.

So, even though we are not entirely sure of the date that playing cards started being used by the English, it was likely sometime in the beginning or middle of the 15th Century. There is further evidence to back up these claims. An Act of Parliament was uncovered during the reign of King Edward IV, which included references to playing cards. Edward IV reigned during the middle of the 15th Century. If you want to know why playing cards were referenced in the Act, it was to protect local manufacturers of these cards against foreign competitors and trades companies.

Do we have any original playing cards today?

There is one set of 52 cards believed to be from the 15th Century (est. 1470). They are known as the Cloisters Set or the Flemish Hunting Deck. They are currently owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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