The original floral games of the troubadours were held by the Consistori del Gay Saber in Toulouse, annually from 1324, traditionally on May 1. One contestant would receive the violeta d'aur, golden violet, for the poem judged the best. The second prize was a silver wild rose, and the other prizes, awarded for particular poetic forms, were similarly floral. The first prize was rewarded on 3 May 1324 to Arnaut Vidal de Castelnou d'Ari for a sirventes in praise of the Virgin Mary. The contests were held intermittently until 1484, when the last prize was awarded to Arnaut Bernart de Tarascon. From this period of 160 years survive the record of around a hundred prizes. These contest were judged in accordance with the Leys d'amor, a grammatical and literary treatise on Occitan poetry.
Initially the floral games were intended to keep alive the poetic language and style of the Occitan troubadours, but in time this agendum was lost. In 1471 the golden violet was awarded to Peire de Janilhac n'ostan qu'el fos Frances, per so que dictec el lengatge de Tholosa: notwithstanding that he was French, because he composed in the language of Toulouse. In 1554 the Constistori, now the Collège, awarded a silver eglantine rose to none other than Pierre de Ronsard, the greatest French poet of his generation, for his Amours. During the Enlightenment, Fabre d'Églantine received his name from the dog rose the Collège bestowed on him. The Consistori, as the Académie des Jeux floraux, continues to function.
The first recorded contest held by John's Consistori de Barcelona took place probably on 28 March 1395 with the king in attendance. This festival is called a bella festa ... a honor de la dita gaya ciència, the prizes for which were provided by the municipal government of Barcelona. There is no record of the names of the winners, the prizes, or their poems. With the death of John two months later and his conflict with the city, the floral games and their source of prize money came to an end.
On 1 May 1398, John's successor, Martin the Humane, agreed to subsidise the annual festival and to cover the cost of the golden and silver prizes for the winners, to be chosen by mantenidors (maintainers) named by the king. Under Martin a great festa was held in 1408 beneath the walls where the Mirador del rei Martí—a recent addition the royal palace complex—and the Palau del Lloctinent meet in Barcelona. On 17 March 1413 Ferdinand of Antequera, who had succeeded Martin, confirmed that the floral games occurred on 1 May.
The intellectual and political classes swiftly patronised the Jocs Florals and their support lent renewed prestige to Catalan poetry. Several different positions soon became apparent with respect to the models to be used for the creation of a new Catalan literature. Marià Aguiló defended as worthy models all the various forms and authors. Antoni de Bofarull defended the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Barcelonan authors as the first models of Catalan poetry. Finally, there was a "third way" that sought a unique nineteenth-century Barcelonan poetry, but it had few defenders among the supporters of the Jocs Florals. In the end the Jocs attracted persons of a wide variety of idealogies: republicans, conservatives, the youth. Eventually, Frederic Soler and his followers would participate in a majority of contests. The Jocs Florals went a long way to re-asserting the Catalan language after centuries of decline with respect to Castilian.
The Jocs of Valencia witnessed thirty-five Mestres d'en Gay Saber and two female winners of the Flor Natural (top prize, an actual rose). Figures like Blasco Ibañez and Niceto Alcalá-Zamora have acted as maintainers, i.e. presidents and judges of the Jocs, and in 1914 and 1999 the maintainers were women. The Regina (queen) who sits in the Cadira d'Or (golden chair) is elected alternatingly from the three Valencian provinces (Alicante, Castellón, and Valencia) and from the comarques. Today the Jocs take place in the Teatro Principal with the attendance of the highest dignitaries of the Valencian Community.