HE DISEASE commonly known for hundreds of years as the 'King's Evil' is known by the name of 'Scrofula' by those in the profession of Physick. I have always been particularly fascinated by the old superstition that surrounds this illness, most specifically, the belief that it could be cured by the 'Royal Touch' and maintained by a gold coin carried in one's pocket known as a 'Touchpiece'.

Queen Anne seems to have been the last of the English sovereigns who actually performed the ceremony of touching. Dr. Dicken, her Majesty's sergeant surgeon, examined all the persons who were brought to her, and bore witness to the certainty of some of the cures.

The practice of the Royal Touch was put to a stop in Great Britain by King George I, but continued to be practiced for a time by the various Royals in France.

Here we have an engraving of the gold touch-piece of Charles II, obverse and reverse; and the identical touch-piece, obverse and reverse, given by Queen Anne.

It is my belief that everyone of the 18th Century would be familiar with the 'King's Evil' and the superstition of how to cure it, even though the Royal Touch was no longer in fashion by 1780. Older folks would be familiar with it for certain, even if it was just by having heard it from parents or grandparents.

In 1768, there was an essay written by mr. John Morley Esq. about Scrofula and the King's Evil entitled, appropriately enough: "An essay on the nature and cure of scrophulous disorders, vulgarly called the King's evil"

I especially enjoy the author's remark on the cover, "Facts are Stubborn Things", which might also be stated, "Superstition is the Enemy of Reason".

1 comment:

The Clerk said...

I do so enjoy stopping by your office. Always something interesting and neat to fill out an understanding of 18th century life. I also really think your "forgeries" are super cool.

By the by, I ran across the word "super" some years ago in an early 1800s fur trade journal (in a description of another trader as "super stupid"); surprised me in the context as it seemed so "modern" in tone.

The Clerk