The Queen of Clubs: history and place in belote

The Queen of Clubs: card games and belote culture

You already met “Lancelot”, Jack of Clubs and AI of our online belote app. Now let us introduce the mysterious Queen of Clubs “Argine” and talk about the origins and meaning of playing cards. 

Decks and playing cards 

All the cards in a deck have the same back pattern but a unique face depicting a figure associated to a suit. Who invented the first card and where does it come from?

The origins of playing cards 

The oldest cards date back to the Middle Ages and have Eastern origins. They were used to play dominoes and chess as well as for divination. 

Forecasts and predictions have existed in various forms such as astrology and numerology since ancient times. Unlike clairvoyance, which is based on intuition, the art of divination using cards (cartomancy) analyzes which cards are picked and in which oreder to predict the future. At that time, it was customary to visit an oracle. Only he was able to read cards !

As for paper money, royal figures came later. Representations varied according to regions and gave way to different suits.  

The origins of suits and court cards 

The first cards showed batons, coins, cups and swords, but hearts, bells, leaves and acorns were also found on German cards. The suits as we know them today (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs) were created for the sake of simplification.  

Europeans also imagined the first royal figures: King, Knight and Jack. These three cards can still be found in German, Italian and Spanish decks of cards. 

And France created… woman! The French replaced the Knight, the second-highest card after the King, by the Queen. Belote cards were born! These ordinary cards are also used to predict the future. It is up to fortune tellers to read cards and tell us what picking a Queen means…  

The Queen of Clubs: a queen among others? 

Queens can be found in 52-card decks as well as 78-card tarot decks. Name, position, accessories… Beyond the suit, how Queens are represented also vary. Do you know what makes them different from each other?

The Queen of Clubs: description and history 

Whatever the suit, all Queens wear a crown, the symbol of royalty par excellence. One thing distinguishes French decks of cards from others: in the 17th century, names borrowed from mythology and the Bible were given to the Kings, Queens and Jacks of all suits. 

The Queen of Clubs is called “Argine”, an anagram of “regina” (“queen” in Latin). 

There is much speculation as to where her name comes from: a nickname given to Marie of Anjou, one of King of Hearts Charlemagne’s concubines, or even Juno, the queen of the Olympian gods… The mystery remains unsolved!  

Her outfit (she is dressed in red and blue with a red veil) reminds some historians of Anne of Brittany, especially in view of the fact that Queen Anne was known for playing cards. The story does not say whether she preferred coinche or classic belote

Finally, the French Queen of Clubs is the only one who is not holding flowers in her right hand (unlike English cards often used for poker). This is definitely not an ordinary card…  

Diamonds, Spades, Hearts: each suit has its own Queen 

Each Queen has her name written on the card.  As for Argine, we don’t know the origin of their names for sure but it is widely agreed that:  

   . The Queen of Hearts would have been named “Judith” in reference to the biblical heroin who beheaded her lover to save her city besieged by the Babylonians.  

. “Rachel”, Queen of Diamonds, would be one of the leading figures in Judaism in the Bible. She is the mother of Joseph, the second most powerful man in Egypt after Pharaoh.  

   . “Pallas”, Queen of Spades, would represent Athena, the goddess of wisdom, pratical skills and prudent warfare in Greek mythology.  

The place of the Queen of Clubs in belote

Hierarchically, the Queen is the second-highest card after the King and before the Jack (or the Knight in tarot), but the order and value of the cards depend on the game played.  

In a belote game, the exact value of the Queen is determined by the suit led (trump or non-trump cards). 

Order and value 

Most often, card games follow the traditional order of the cards. However, blackjack and of course, belote and its many variants such as coinche belote and belote contrée are an exception to this rule. 

Whatever the suit, the value of the Queen varies according to whether or not it is a trump card: 

  • In a trump suit, the Queen ranks sixth among eight cards. The Jack is the top card followed by Nine, Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Eight, Seven.
  • In a non-trump suit, the Queen is not worth much more since it is the fourth-highest card. The order is a bit more conventional: Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, Nine, Eight, Seven. 

Melds: belote and rebelote 

Here we are not talking about the Queen of Clubs specifically but the Queen of Trumps. 

Thanks to this card, you will get bonus points if you announce “belote rebelote”. He who holds the King and Queen of Trumps will receive 10 extra points.

In belote contrée which involves announcements and bids, several combinations are possible with the Queen: square (four Queens) as well as tierce, fifty and hundred (three to five consecutive cards in the same suit). 

You now hold all the cards to start a discussion on the history and culture of card games at the table next time you will be playing a game of belote with your friends!  

You want to find out more about our virtual Queen of Clubs? Come play online against Argine, the AI used on FunBridge, the No. 1 bridge app in the world!

And after that, why not challenge Lancelot in a belote or coinche game on FunBelote?

Our apps are available for download on Google Play and the Apple Store for Android and iOS devices. 

Sign up or refer friends who also play belote to earn lots of free chips.