There are often many different names for the Royal Arcana cards, such as “Page, Knight, Queen, King” or “Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight”. In Patch Tarot we have titled them “Princess, Prince, Queen, and King”. This decision to do so is explained more thoroughly in the Book of Patch, and is an attempt to unify all pre-existing decks into One.
When exploring the variety of Tarot cards out there, it can sometimes become confusing to see all of the different naming conventions & systems of different decks. Sometimes the King is in the position of the Prince and embodies the element of Air, where as other times the King is called a Knight and embodies the element of Fire.
The general reason for the different versions come from the two major “staple decks” in the last hundred years, the Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth Tarot. Both of these decks derive from the Qabalistic Tarot established by the Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888. However, the Rider-Waite was a synthesis of the Golden Dawn structure with the older “Tarot De Marseille” decks (the previous standard from Europe for hundreds of years prior), where Thoth Tarot relied more heavily on the Golden Dawn structure, synthesized with Aleister Crowley’s own understanding and level of consciousness at the time of creating it.
Most decks produced in the last hundred years are generally based to some degree on either of these two decks, and each of them follows a distinct system which either puts the element of Air, or Fire, at the top of the Royal hierarchy. Following in the original work of the Golden Dawn, we have used the model that places Fire at the top, aligned with the Kings. Patch Tarot is an attempt to unify these pre-existing decks, and so we have laid out the Royal Arcana by this structure:
The Princesses are the element of Earth.
The Princes are the element of Air.
The Queens are the element of Water.
The Kings are the element of Fire.
The Royal Arcana can be observed as a 4×4 grid, depicted like this:
Within the Royal Arcana, you will find a character for every Element. For example, there is a Princess of Cups, a Princess of Disks, a Princess of Swords, and a Princess of Wands, which each represent their respective element WITHIN each other element. (So the Princess of Cups would be the Earth aspect of Water, for example).
Each court character also carries an important personality signature, which comes by observing Masculine and Feminine energy, either youthful or mature, in relationship to each element. The Prince and Princess are youthful, the Queen and King are mature.
The Prince and King are masculine, the Princess and Queen are Feminine. Generally when drawn in a reading, the Royal Arcana can be observed in a number of ways. Often, they are read as people in your life or aspects of yourself. They can also signify, places, events, or things too. Because of this, reading the Royal Arcana cards can often be the most complex cards in all of the Tarot, but that is simply a sign of just how deep you can go with them.
Another reason these cards are so complex is that they relate to not one, but several different astrological signs, often including at least 2 constellations and even more planets, in addition to their two elemental signs as well.
Therefore, do not limit your understanding of these cards to the previously described connections and grid, but continue making connections and strive to learn more. For those of you just getting started, having this basic understanding will be monumental in helping to understand what these alchemical combinations mean. Further, look to the upright and reverse keys at the top of the cards for a very simple understanding of what the card may represent – but just remember – you can always go deeper.