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.