David Pickup submitted this follow-up with more background on touch pieces, coins linked to an ancient royal ceremony when monarchs touched people who who believed the act could cure their disease.
Don't touch me!
Continuing looking at coins and health last week we looked at touch pieces and how
they fell out of favour with William III but were still used by the Jacobites. This week I
want to go back to earlier in the Seventeenth Century.
Touching ceremonies were very popular at the French court and it is possible that
Charles I may have been influenced by his French queen to carry on the tradition
that his Scottish father, James I disapproved of. Under Charles the ceremony
became so popular that people tried to go back in for a second go. The authorities
insisted that candidates had to get a certificate from a pastor and royal authority to
show that they were first timers.
Charles legitimised the ceremony by adding a service of healing to the official prayer
book. He also banned anyone who was not him from attempting to cure ill people by
touching. It was all part of a propaganda plot to prove he had divine backing. There
were instances of accredited healing miracles. A former Puritan called Lord Poulett's
daughter was cured and he became a strong supporter of the Royalists.
In 1642 the king was forced by the Civil War to move his court to Oxford. Even
though there was fighting going on Parliament granted passes to people to travel
along the river Thames to Oxford with sick children to be touched in the hope of a
cure. In 1643 there was petition from people wanting their king back to London for
the touching. This too was a piece of propaganda, possibly from moderates wanting
to mediate a settlement.
After the Civil War when Charles was in captivity in Northamptonshire and then on
the Isle of Wight the touching ceremonies continued but was unable to hand out
coins. The public brought their own ribbons and souvenirs for him to touch. Stories of
Charles curing the lame and blind built up an image of a Christ like King and
After his execution there was a scrabble for his mementos and clothes dipped in
royal blood. After Charles' death an enterprising businessman set out tours to the
continent for people who wanted to be cured by Charles II in exile. He was an
enthusiastic "toucher" in more than one way" One of his illegitimate offspring, the
Duke of Monmouth, later tried to seize the crown. One of the charges against him
was he pretended to use the Royal touch.
To read the Wikpedia entry on Charles I, see:
Charles I of England
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
THE ROYAL TOUCH AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
Wayne Homren, Editor
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