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King of Hearts

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The King of Hearts
King of Hearts Mother Goose2
The King of Hearts reprimanding the Knave.

Real Name

King of Hearts

First Appearance

Ganjifa playing cards, 1100s

Created by

Unknown

Origin

The King of Hearts is a nursery rhyme character from 1782. Lewis Carroll later adapted the rhyme into the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where he is the King Consort of the Queen of Hearts.

He seems to, when compared to the Queen of Hearts, be the moderate part of the Wonderland government. As an example, when the Queen, who enjoys ordering beheadings, attempts to have Alice executed (charged with being unable to answer who is lying down in front of her) the King of Hearts reminds her that she is only a child.

King-of-hearts

The King of Hearts as depicted in Wonderland.

The King also quietly pardons many of the subjects the Queen has ordered to be beheaded when the Queen is not looking. This guarantees few people are actually beheaded. Nevertheless, when the Queen plays a game of croquet in the story, the only players who remain at the end are himself, the Queen, and Alice.

At the Knave of Hearts' trial, however, where he acts as judge, he is revealed to be quite juvenile, with such lines as, "don't be nervous or I'll have you executed on the spot" to the Hatter, or asking the Duchess' Cook irrelevant questions such as, "What are tarts made of?" Between the two of them, the King and Queen appear to present a fairly accurate reflection of the childish, reckless and confusing world of Wonderland.

Him and the Queen also have ten children (the numerical hearts suit of cards).

Public Domain Literary Appearances

  • “The Queen of Hearts” (poem)
  • The King and Queen of Hearts: With the Rogueries of the Knave Who Stole the Queen’s Pies, by Charles Lamb, 1805.
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (novel), by Lewis Carroll, 1865.
  • The Queen of Hearts: A Dramatic Fantasia, for Private Theatricals, by James B. Greenough, 1875. (HathiTrust)
  • “The Knave of Hearts: A Fourth‐of‐July Play in One Act,” by Albert Lee, Harper’s Round Table, vol. 16, no. 818, 2 July 1895. (HathiTrust)
  • Wonderland (operetta), by Glen MacDonough, music by Victor Herbert, 1905. (HathiTrust)
  • “The Queen of Hearts,” by Maurice Switzer, in Mrs. Goose: Her Book, 1906. (HathiTrust)
  • “The King of Hearts,” by Ida H. Juillerat, in Jingles for Singles, 1910. (HathiTrust)
  • The Modern Mother Goose: A Play in Three Acts, by Helen Hamilton, 1916. (HathiTrust)
  • “The King of Hearts: A Fantastical Mystery,” in The Human Touch with Fantasy and Poems, by Leonard A. Compton‐Rickett, 1921. (HathiTrust)

Public domain movie appearances

  • Alice in Wonderland (1903)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1915)

Notes

  • The King of Cups first appeared in Ganjifa playing cards in or before the Twelfth Century. The Germans changed the suit of cups to hearts around 1460. The French referred to the King of Hearts as Charles, named after either Charles VII or Charlemagne.
  • While the original character is in public domain, the version of the character used by Disney and other later adaptations published after 1923 are NOT in the public domain.

See Also

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