Games in the Regency ~ Cards Part 1

By Ann Lethbridge

Fun and games anyone? Without TV our Regency ancestors spent more time in activities that involved -- other people. I thought it might be good to look at pastimes in a little more detail. We did look at those specific to women, but I thought we might look at those which one might find at a party.

Card Games

There were lots of them. The best place to find out about the rules, if you want to play a la Regency, (hows that for a bit of French late on a Thursday night) is to look at Hoyles, on Google. This link is for one for 1823, there are probably others. In 1750, the first compendium of various games was published, as Mr. Hoyle's Games Complete.

Here are some of the more familiar card games we see in books:

  • Whist
  • Ving-et-un
  • Piquet
  • Cribbage
  • Pharo

I thought we could work through them from time to time. Do you also see how clever I have become with my html. lol


This is a whist marker from 1820. A way of keeping score. Each marker would have a number from 0 to 9 because in those days whist was played to 9 or 10 points, known as long whist.

This is a game played with partners and with trumps. It is similar to bridge but less complex. It does require keeping track of what cards have been played. The cards your partner plays will often reveal their cards in relation to yours.

There is some interesting terminology that goes along with a game.

Whist: According to Hoyle it is called this because you need to be quiet when you are playing.

Revoke: This means one of the players did not follow suit when he had a card of that suit in his hand. His partner is actually allowed to ask if he made a mistake, because the penalties are severe.

There are other interesting terms like, Quint, Tierce, Quart and Finessing and more.

Points are scored: one for each trick above six tricks between the partners. Thirteen tricks make a hand, because each player is dealt thirteen cards. However, in order to win the game, you have to make nine points, which would mean dealing more than one hand.

If you are playing a rubber of Whist, then you play the best of three, which means that one partnership must reach nine points twice.

Well I don't know about you, but that is more than enough for me. I am looking forward to looking at another game, next time we Ramble through the Regency.

Searching for Regency England II

And the winner is, Wendy Davis. Wendy, you take home a copy of Brides of the West. I will be in by email touch real soon!

Back to Knole Park. One thing I should mention. Quite often the family lived in simpler apartments just as they do today in fact. This door looks like a secluded entrance. I wonder where it goes.

I often wonder what it must be like to live in one of these great houses.

The rooms we see as visitors are usually State rooms or show rooms, kept specially for important guests. Something like our parlors or best rooms, only used for special guests and containing all the best furniture. That is not to say they did not use them at all. The second floor galleries were great for ladies to walk in in inclement weather, and I shouldn't wonder if they weren't great for children to roller skate in, or for bike riding in more recent times. In fact, I do recall the current Prince of Wales mentioning roller skating in Windsor Castle.

On the topic of furniture and fittings, Knole is a treasure trove. Knole was mostly unoccupied since the end of the seventeenth century and the furniture remained as was, under dust covers. Unfortunately one cannot take pictures.

Most of the rooms have dark wood paneling. The great hall's floor is black and white tile laid in a diamond pattern, pretty much as you will find in Hugo's great hall, in my new book, The Lady Flees Her Lord, out in October 2008. It still has its screen, the wooden wall which blocked the view to the kitchens, and a dais, where the lord and lady would eat in early times. It would only have been used for parties in the Regency era, and if you have read No Regrets, you will know that Lucas rode his horse through the great hall.

This bedroom dates back to the 1620's and gives you a sense of the quality of what you can see at Knole House. One fascinating piece of equipment is the hundred-eye-lantern. They are cylinders pierced with holes in which candles were stood to prevent accidents, throwing a patten on the walls and ceilings which give rise to their name. The tapestries are mid 17th century Flemish verdure and the capet is English turkey-work, so now you know what is referred to in a book that cites a Turkey carpet. The chairs look quite uncomfortable with those heavily carved strings, but I expect they used cushions, don't you. I also really like that little table with the washing bowl. Reminds one of the lack of running water. Although that was becoming more prevalent in our era.

There were also examples of x-frame chairs, and early couches or setees, both terms are ancient. Stools were also much in evidence in the bedrooms. Beechwood was commonly used for furniture

One also finds early nineteenth century Worcester china in the house, though much of the porcelain is French, Sevres and Vincennes acquired in the late eighteenth century.

Another room of interest was the billiard room on the second floor off one of the long galleries. The ivory tipped cues are a curved stick, called maces, something like a hockey stick, and the balls were pushed through a hoop rather than struck.

Straight cues came into being in 1800. So it might be not be rare to find this old game at a country house, as well as the newer version.

The table has an oak base, making it not exactly flat! The next picture is of the nineteenth centurey version. Just look at that huge table!

A sad story -- the balls were made of wood or of ivory. Only female elephant tusks could be used because of their smooth grain, and it took one elephant to make six balls. I must say I did not feel too happy about that one. I'm pet crazy. Right now we can't use our front door, because a robin has built a nest in the flower planter on the wall right next to the door.

I hope some of these artifacts give you an idea of Knole and if you ever have a chance to visit, please do. You will not be disappointed.

Well, Thursday is May 1, and we will start the month with our usual articles on fashion and flora and fauna. Then we will return to our search for Regency England.

I will be putting out my newsletter in a few days. If you are not subscribed and would like to be so, now might be a good time. this link is on the side bar.

Until next time. Happy rambles.