Museum Treasure: The suit of spades

It is the year 1678 in London and an uneasy religious calm and simmering tensions prevails in the city. Indeed, this is the prevalent mood across England and Wales. Though it has been 150 years since the English Church split from the Roman Catholic Church bitter differences remain between the Protestant majority and Catholic minority. The reigning monarch, Charles II, is a worried man as his successor and brother, James II is a Roman Catholic.

On the morning of 12 October, the magistrate of Westminster and strong supporter of Protestantism, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey receives a report of an alleged Catholic plot to assassinate the King. On October 17, Godfrey’s body is found on Primrose Hill; it is automatically assumed that he has been killed by the Catholic plotters. This discovery sets off a wave of anti-Catholic sentiments and a chain of arrests and executions follow.

This event, which becomes part of the larger Popish Plot, is widely documented and recorded. One of the more unusual ways it has been documented is in a pack of cards now displayed at the British Museum, London !

The suit of spades from a pack of Popish Plot playing cards

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