Playing Pope Joan

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Charles Williams (active 1797-1830), Pope Joan, 1805. Hand colored etching. Graphic Arts Collection British Caricature GA2012- in process.

During the War of the Third Coalition (1803 to 1806), Great Britain was under constant threat of an invasion by Napoleon I (1769-1821). This is reflected in the game of Pope Joan print drawn by Charles Williams in November 1805.

One of the players asks, “And do you really think, Major, that Bonaparte means to attempt an Invasion? - pray what is your opinion of him.” To which the answer is given, “A knave Ma’am, and that’s a stop.”


Pope Joan was a popular card game played in 18th- and 19th-century England. The staking board used in the game can be seen in this print, with its eight compartments labeled Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Game, Pope (the 9 of diamonds), Matrimony (the king and queen of trump) and Intrigue (the queen and jack of trump). The aim of the game is to run out of cards before anyone else does. For the complete rules, see