The Unofficial History of Cribbage and Sir John Suckling

One of England’s greatest contributions to Western Civilization is the card game Cribbage, at least in the opinion of avid Cribbage players. Sir John Suckling is the one responsible for bringing us the game that we love today. Although there is no evidence to truly prove that Sir John Suckling was the creator of Cribbage, he is, at the very least, the one responsible for publishing and spreading the game all through the land.

Sir John Suckling, poet, playwright, master bowler/gambler and notorious womanizer, was born at Whitton, between Twickenham and Hounslow, Middlesex, on February 10, 1609. He was born into a very prominent family in England, although after his mother died when he was four years of age, his father was in charge of rearing the young child. His father was a member of the English Parliament and was the “controller” of the King’s household until his untimely death in 1627. Sir John was at the age of 18 when his father passed and was old enough to inherit his father’s considerably large estate. After receiving the inheritance he spent countless amount of money traveling, womanizing and of course gambling.

In 1623 he enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge and then to Gray’s Inn in 1627. At the young age of 18, he pursued a military career and joined the army of Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years’ War. At the age of 21, King Charles I knighted Suckling. The king quickly regretted the decision, so Suckling left the court and became involved in several different military adventures. He was said to have served in an expedition against France and it has been said that he fought in Lord Wimbledon’s regiments in the Dutch service. In October 1631, Sir John joined Sir Henry Vane who was serving under Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden. In 1632, Suckling quickly came back into King Charles’s good graces after delivering the dispatches, by orders of Vane, and after completing his mission he returned and remained in England.

After that he pretty much filled his time gambling, womanizing, and serving in the military for the rest of the decade. This is where he was said to have invented the beloved game of cribbage, which had some similar features to the games, Noddy and One-and-Thirty. Although when the Scottish war of 1639 began, he left his beloved cards and women to raise a troop of 100 horsemen and his army joined King Charles in the north. When the war ended, peacefully, in 1639, Sir John returned to London. He was elected to Parliament in 1640, but in May 1641 he was involved in a vain attempt to free a political prisoner, Thomas Wentworth, the earl of Stratford and held in the Tower of London. Sir John Suckling was then charged with treason and had to flee to France with very few belongings and almost no financial assistance, to avoid arrest.

In order to establish some kind of financial security in one of his darkest hours, Suckling started selling a large number of marked packs of cards and distributed them amongst the richest population in the region. He then started playing cards where the marked cards were distributed. In 1642, it was believed that Sir John Suckling committed suicide by taking poison. It has been said that his greatest accomplishments were the lyrics to “why so pale” and “wan fond lover?” and for Cribbage, which has changed very little since Suckling’s day and is one of the most popular card games in the English speaking world.

Venetian Mask History, the Moretta Mask

The Moretta mask is one of the most traditional designs of Venetian masks. Originating in France it was quickly taken up by the fashion conscious Venetian women who loved the way the mask accentuated the soft feminine lines of the female face. Its popularity was short lived as by 1760 it had disappeared.

The Moretta mask was oval in shape with no mouth opening, just eye holes.Traditionally the mask was worn with a veil so giving total anonymity to its wearer. Originally made of black velvet the features are expressionless. It was designed without ties to secure it in place relying Instead on a button a button sewn on the inside of the mask which was clamped in the mouth of the wearer, so keeping the mask in place and rendering the wearer mute. This is why the Moretta mask is also called the Servetta Muta meaning mute maid servant.

The lack of verbal communication this mask imposed meant that Venetian women had to use their body language to communicate. It encouraged coquettish behavior, the tilt of the head,the fluttering of eye lashes, the touch of a hand all became an intricate part of flirtation.Its expressionless face meant that the female wearer had to use her body to communicate, much as a mime artist would today. When worn, the Moretta mask accentuated all the attributes that Venetians considered to be the height of desirability and femininity. 

The moretta mask was worn to gambling houses, for affairs and when visiting convents where vows of silence were observed.

Thankfully todays Moretta masks are designed with ribbon ties to secure it. The button has been left in an era where women’s views were seen as unimportant and where they were judged on their physical attributes alone. They can be crafted from leather, cloth or paper mache. Most are still blank in either black or white as tradition dictates. If you wish for one that is a little more decorative there are designs that have been embelished with gilded macrame and crystals. Although not historically correct these do look superb when worn and also make lovely wall decoration. The leather Moretta masks are probably the most comfortable, allowing the skin to breath and molding to the shape of the wearers face.

Although simple in its design and somewhat inconvenient to wear, this mask still holds a fascination for us today. Its expressionless façade imbibes its wearer with an ethereal look which captivates our attention wherever it may be worn.