Healed By Royal Touch
Posted by foryourfaith on June 27, 2010
For more than 500 years the royal power to heal by touch was widely accepted in medieval Europe. English historian William of Malmesbury, writing in the 1120s, claimed that King Edward the Confessor, ruler of England from 1042 to 1066, was the first to practice it. French tradition has Clovis initiating the practice in the fifth century AD. Another account says King Philip I, who ruled France from 1060 to 1108, was the first practitioner, and reports that he zealously exercised this most miraculous power.
The ailment known as the “King’s Evil” was, strictly speaking, scrofula or struma – a tubercular inflammation of the lymph glands in the neck – but any kind of swelling or sore on or above the neck was generally called by the same name. If surgical operations, medical prescriptions and traditional charms all failed, sufferers sought the healing touch of the monarch at special ceremonies conducted for that purpose by senior clergy.
People argued about whether the healing touch lay in the sovereign’s own person or in the monarch’s anointing, or whether the king or queen interceded with God on the patient’s behalf, but the power was seen as coming from God in validation of the sovereign’s right to rule. According to Reginald Scot‘s The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584, Queen Elizabeth I “only useth divine prayer with some alms, and referreth the cure to God and the physicians.” Since only a legitimate monarch could heal those who suffered from scrofula, Elizabeth’s power was seen as proof that the 1570 Papal Bull excommunicating her was ineffective.
When Henry VII established his touching ceremony in the fifteenth century, he gave each person a gold coin. Mary Tudor advised those she touched to keep the coin she gave them, and people believed that the disease would return if they did not. After Mary Boyes was cured by Charles I at Hampton Court in 1647, she stopped wearing her coin, became ill once again and died.
From 1660 to 1664 and 1667 to 1683, Charles II is said to have touched more than 90,000 people for the Evil. In the year from May 1682 to April 1683, there were 8577 entries in the King’s Register of Healing.
Queen Anne, who died in 1714, was the last English monarch who practiced touching for the disease. Samuel Johnson, later a lexicographer, was taken as an infant to the queen, on the advice of his family’s physician, and touched for the Evil.
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