3. L’Empereur

The Emperor from Tarocchino Arlecchino.

About the Card

English Name(s)

The Emperor


  • Grand Etteilla: Card Number 7
  • Tarot de Marseille: Trump IIII

Image Description

The Emperor wears a red and black diamond cloaks, a colorful feathered collar, a black mask with white fur trim, and a tall closed crown topped with a black tassel. He sits and holds a small hound dog in his right hand, and props up a spear in his lap with his left hand. He looks slightly to the right, toward a black and gold sun in the upper corner.

Further Notes

Neither the Empress nor the Emperor appears in the Etteilla tradition, nor in the modern Bolognese tarocchino. In later Bolognese decks, they were replaced by Moors (along with the Popes), in some effort at political correctness. In the Grand Etteilla, the Emperor is replaced with Birds and Fish, as part of the Biblical days of creation sequence that begins the trumps.

This card depicts King Herla, whose name provides one of various folk etymologies for Harlequin. According to the legends of England and Wales, King Herla was hoodwinked in by dwarfs in Fairyland and condemned to wander the world, not quite living but not dying. Returning a favor, Herla brought a procession of noblemen to attend a dwarf-king’s wedding party. For their trouble, they received all sorts of gifts, including a small bloodhound. The fairy warned the group never to dismount until this bloodhound jumped down (as you would expect, anyone who disobeyed was promptly turned to dust). The excitement of the great gifts wore off quickly when Herla and company emerged from the cavern of dwarf-land to find that centuries had passed, everyone they had known was dead, and what’s more, the bloodhound refused to jump down. Their procession roves the countryside as the bone-rattling Wild Hunt.

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Support, backing, holding up, column, base, foundation, basis, founding principles, hypothesis, reason, cause, subject, fixity, stability, assurance, persuasion, conviction, confidence, security, reliability, help, aid.


Protection, defense, influence, benevolence, benefaction, charity, humaneness, goodness, shelter, preservation, aegis.