Alain Chartier .... anybody? "Dame France"?


Just the stupid question, if anybody is informed with some details about Alain Chartier (+ ca. 1433), secretaty of Charles VII. and poet of some French fame.

Just: was he ever connected to playing cards? Did he invent the figure of "Dame France"? And if he didn't, who did it then?

Good Links somewhere?


Huck said:
Just the stupid question, if anybody is informed with some details about Alain Chartier (+ ca. 1433), secretaty of Charles VII. and poet of some French fame.

Just: was he ever connected to playing cards? Did he invent the figure of "Dame France"? And if he didn't, who did it then?

Good Links somewhere?

Biography on :


autorbis wrote at LTarot

Alain Chartier (ca. 1385 – ca. 1433), born in Bayeux, Normandy, from a normal family (not nobility). He advanced to become a jurist and cleric, later secretary to King Charles VII.
As poet his greatest famous work "La belle dame sans merci" of 1424 is a very successful story with 100x8 lines, in wich he is said to have created the typus of the "cruel beauty", who let the man suffer in his desire for love, and this becomes the second great literary typus, the "suffering lover".
The "Belle dame sans merci" was very often cited, noted, plagiated and parodized in the following decades, it was at great success rather immediately.

A little earlier, 1416, with the impression of the dramatical and lost battle of Azincourt in 1415 in the background he wrote another work, the Livre des quatre dames, also in rhymes, in which he reports of 4 ladies, which beg him to decide, who of them was was most suffering:

1. the one, whose lover died in the battle
2. the one, whose lover disappeared with battle and whose destiny in unknown
3. the one, whose lover became a prisoner
4. the one, whose love escaped cowardly

In 1422 Chartier wrote the Quadrilogue invectif, a talk between 4 allegorical persons le Clergé, la Chevalerie, le Peuple und Dame France, whereby Dame France attacks the disunity of the French people in view of the chaotic conditions of the country, which is reigned for the moment by two different kings.
1422 France got after the death of Charles VI the crazy two kings, one a suckling babe and the son of the just died died English king and the other Charles VII, the personal master of Chartier.
Naturally the both earlier texts (1416 and 1422) had basically political character and they do not surprize for a man, who made his living as secretary and poet for Charles VII. But they contain a specific factor, which made them interesting in regard to the problems of early playing card research.
Generally it is assumed, that the playing cards invaded Europe friom the
East. The few Mamluk decks, which are known, do not have a female court card. Responding to this factor, the European standard forms of playing cards had in Germany the male figures of King, Ober and Unter and in Italy the King, the Cavallo and the Page.
From the document of Johannes of Rheinfelden 1377 in Freiburg im Breisgau (according to the recent researches of Arne Jönssen the date was confirmed, some time ago in the time of Dummett's Game of Tarot it was assumed, that specific details might have been added at a later time in 1429) we know, that female court cards existed already in 1377, though they might have been not the standard forms and only a rarity. In 1423 it is known from Italy that 4 queens existed (preachings of San Bernardino) and from 1427 - 1431 (the oldest known German deck) we know definitely, that it contained queens.
Now Chartier in 1416 developed the pictures of "quatre Dames" and in 1422 he repeats the scheme of the "4" with 4 allegoric figures, from which one is female and 3 are male, as it is custom in usual court cards structures of the developing Tarot deck in Italy (King, Queen, Cavallo, Page).
Chartier themes seem to indicate, that Queens existed in his time (1416). Or, a second possibility, although it looks unlikely, the popularity of Chartier's poems caused, that the decks adopted the Queens as fourth figure.
Surprizing in specific context now is the 3rd most famous poem of Chartier, La belle dame sans merci.
From the text of Martiano da Tortona, which at least was finished in the year 1425, we now about details of the famous deck of Filippo Maria Visconti, which we at other place call the "oldest Tarot cards". As we analysed at another place, the central figure of the composition is Daphne, a favoured figure already of Petrarca who wrote much earlier than Chartier. A typical and well known example of a cruel beauty, which made her lover (Apollo) suffer endlessly, of course "sans merci".

The dates 1424 (Chartier's poem) and "at least finished 1425" (Martiano's text) are very near in time to each other. The courts of France and of Milan were united by two marriages in 14th century, the earlier of the marriages was arranged by the diplomatic activities by Petrarca (who spent a great part of his own life in France before) himself in service of the Milanese court. The condition (at least in theory) existed in 1425, that the duchy of Milan, if the current ruler left no male heir, would fall to the house of Orleans.
Filippo Maria Visconti was half-brother to Valentina Visconti, one of the early great dames of the French court (- 1408), and Christine de Pizan, the great poetress (still living in Chartiers time), who formed the current picture of French feminism a little before Chartier, was of Italian descendance.
Cause of these conditions it is likely, that both courts influenced each other and that themes and modes wandered from one place to the other. Daphne in Milan and the Chartiers cruel lady in France have a natural context, and their appearance at the same time is likely not accidental, but has inner historical logic.
A few years later, in 1429, Johanna of Orleans appeared out of the nothing of a farmer's daughter life to save the French kingdom, welcomed especially by Chartier. Perhaps it's an interesting idea to realize, that Chartier's poems and of course also the generally mood of the time created her.
Little time later Chartier died in diplomatic mission in Avignon (1433 or 1435).

(Huck's note: Alain's link
offers contradicting life dates of the poet, also it seems to exclude any action towards Jeanne d'Arc in 1429)
(autorbis proceeds)

This letter stands in context with that, what I recently wrote:

"The old year passes away, a new one comes.

I announce, that will attack this year the common places of Tarot History theories.

One statement - no one involved wil be surprized - will be, that the 5x14-theory is a little more than a theory.

A second statement will be - this may surprize some more - that we've identified the wedding deck of June 1468.
Well ... no Tarot deck of 15th century till now has been dated really. This is the first, which could be placed in the timeline: June 1468. And I assume, that this is likely the first deck with 22 trumps. And this is a revolution.

A 3rd statement will say, that the French king Louis XI. participated in the construction of Tarot in a specific manner.
A lot of persons have desired in the past, that there was a French participation. I don't know, why ... mostly the idea was, that somehow Albiginenser or Gringonneur or ... No, but we say with some good reason, that it was Louis XI. With some luck we've a date and with some other luck we also have the painter and some data to the action. Another revolution.

And we will state (4th statement), that there was a natural female participation in the construction of Tarot. A thick female influence, not a small one. Courtly men played chess, playing cards were mostly women business.
And some more interesting things. I announce a serious attack ... :)"


The general questions around Tarot (which is our specific context) demand to place it in the context of the time of early 15th century. Naturally it leads us to reflect things and matters which we're not specialised on. So we do not claim to know much about French poetry for instance ... :) indeed, I personally for instance am very limited in my understanding of even French language. Also I fail to be female, but in the current context it seems to be necessary to give some informations about early French feminism and the specific role of French women in the given time frame.

So naturally I am handicapped. Nonetheless - although incompetent - we need these factors to explain a few things, which are of importance to understand, how Tarot developed. How it happened, that it got 22 cards once ... much later.

.. so, cause we're incompetent in some aspects of the theme, it might easily happen, that we present occasionally informations, which should be corrected. Please do so and write us about your better informations.

autorbis "at"


I found this information quite interesting! And will follow developments...

Especially as the emergences of traceable French romance literature seems to tally with the emerging 'tarot' timeline...that is as outlined above. I like it when I hear of how card games reflected foreseeable parallels in arts and literature or popular culture...



The last letter, which is recorded for Chartier, is from 1429. He wrote about Jeanne d'Arc, which he saw in July 1429 at the coronation of the king and he was happy about her.

This last letter went to Maria Filippo Visconti.