Saturday 23 June 1660

By water with Mr. Hill towards my Lord’s lodging and so to my Lord. With him to Whitehall, where I left him and went to Mr. Holmes to deliver him the horse of Dixwell’s that had staid there fourteen days at the Bell.

So to my Lord’s lodgings, where Tom Guy came to me, and there staid to see the King touch people for the King’s evil. But he did not come at all, it rayned so; and the poor people were forced to stand all the morning in the rain in the garden. Afterward he touched them in the Banquetting-house.1

With my Lord, to my Lord Frezendorfe’s, where he dined to-day. Where he told me that he had obtained a promise of the Clerk of the Acts place for me, at which I was glad.

Met with Mr. Chetwind, and dined with him at Hargrave’s, the Cornchandler, in St. Martin’s Lane, where a good dinner, where he showed me some good pictures, and an instrument he called an Angelique. With him to London, changing all my Dutch money at Backwell’s for English, and then to Cardinal’s Cap, where he and the City Remembrancer who paid for all.

Back to Westminster, where my Lord was, and discoursed with him awhile about his family affairs. So he went away, I home and wrote letters into the country, and to bed.

  1. This ceremony is usually traced to Edward the Confessor, but there is no direct evidence of the early Norman kings having touched for the evil. Sir John Fortescue, in his defence of the House of Lancaster against that of York, argued that the crown could not descend to a female, because the Queen is not qualified by the form of anointing her, used at the coronation, to cure the disease called the King’s evil. Burn asserts, “History of Parish Registers,” 1862, p. 179, that “between 1660 and 1682, 92,107 persons were touched for the evil.” Everyone coming to the court for that purpose, brought a certificate signed by the minister and churchwardens, that he had not at any time been touched by His Majesty. The practice was supposed to have expired with the Stuarts, but the point being disputed, reference was made to the library of the Duke of Sussex, and four several Oxford editions of the Book of Common Prayer were found, all printed after the accession of the house of Hanover, and all containing, as an integral part of the service, “The Office for the Healing.” The stamp of gold with which the King crossed the sore of the sick person was called an angel, and of the value of ten shillings. It had a hole bored through it, through which a ribbon was drawn, and the angel was hanged about the patient’s neck till the cure was perfected. The stamp has the impression of St. Michael the Archangel on one side, and a ship in full sail on the other. “My Lord Anglesey had a daughter cured of the King’s evil with three others on Tuesday.” — MS. Letter of William Greenhill to Lady Bacon, dated December 31st, 1629, preserved at Audley End. Charles II. “touched” before he came to the throne. “It is certain that the King hath very often touched the sick, as well at Breda, where he touched 260 from Saturday the 17 of April to Sunday the 23 of May, as at Bruges and Bruxels, during the residence he made there; and the English assure … it was not without success, since it was the experience that drew thither every day, a great number of those diseased even from the most remote provinces of Germany.” — Sir William Lower’s Relation of the Voiage and Residence which Charles the II. hath made in Holland, Hague, 1660, p. 78. Sir William Lower gives a long account of the touching for the evil by Charles before the Restoration.

19 Annotations

Paul Brewster   Link to this

- the King touch people for the King's evil.
“Scrofula, a tubercular infection of the soft tissues, generally the glands; allegedly healed by the touch of a consecrated King. … In England ceremonies had been held frequently since the reign of Edward III. Under Henry VII an office was added to the service book; it appears (modified and in English) in some prayer books during the reign of Charles I and up to 1719. … There was a great revival of the practice at the Restoration. … At this period the sufferers attended a service at which prayers were offered, and were given a gold coin (‘touchpiece’), touched by the ruler which they hung around their necks. On this occasion over 600 are said to have attended at Whitehall palace. The King thereafter appointed Fridays for the ceremony and limited the number to 200. … The ceremony went out of use under the Hanoverians; Dr. Johnson, as a little boy in Anne’s reign, is said to have been among the last to have been ‘touched’.” per L&M

Nix   Link to this

The Bell --

"Then there was that other house in King Street, the Bell, upon which the diarist bestowed some of his patronage. On his first visit he was caught in a neat little trap. 'Met with Purser Washington, with whom and a lady, a friend of his, I dined at the Bell Tavern in King Street, but the rogue had no more manners than to invite me, and to let me pay my club.' Which was too bad of the Purser, when Pepys' head and heart were full of infinite business.' The next call, however, was more satisfactory and less expensive. He merely dropped in to see 'the seven Flanders mares that my Lord has bought lately.' But the Bell had a history both before and after Pepys' time. It is referred to so far back as the middle of the fifteenth century, and it was in high favour as the headquarters of the October Club in the reign of Queen Anne."

H. Shelley, Inns and Taverns of Old London (1908)

Paul Brewster   Link to this

the City Remembrancer
Per L&M he was John Topham

A clue to the duties of this official in this period ...

"Remembrancia"
From the Corporation of London Records Office
This series of volumes contains copies of the correspondence between the Sovereign, the Lord Mayor, Ministers, the Privy Council, the Courts of Aldermen and Common Council, and eminent persons, as transcribed by the City Remembrancer, c.1579-1664/5 (with some gaps.) Subjects covered include the government of the City of London and the City's rights and customs, religion, markets, churches, trade and commerce, etc.

language hat   Link to this

the City Remembrancer (OED):
An official of the Corporation of the City of London, whose chief duty now is to represent that body before Parliamentary Committees and at Council and Treasury Boards.
"From the records of the City of London, in the Town Clerk’s Office, it appears that the office of Remembrancer was instituted in 1570-1" (Archaeologia, 1855, XXXVI. 106).

Paul Brewster   Link to this

Here's a reference to the Book of Common Prayer format for the King's touch
http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/occasion...

Colin Gravois   Link to this

"the City Remembrancer."
Such an evocative title, the name says it all, some sort of recording secretary at the time, and what a quaint name to have been carried over to present times, where that municipal officier's duties seems to have evolved towards active participation in the city's affairs.

Glyn   Link to this

then to Cardinal’s Cap, where he and the City Remembrancer paid for all

Sam was getting a free meal and drinks at the Cardinals Cap in Lombard Street. Strangely this is its only mention in the Diaries although it was very old (dating from at least 1369) and very well known. It was owned by a John Steele from 1641 until his death in 1679 so he may have been serving the drinks on this occasion. Apparently there was once a Cardinals Cap Alley between Lombard Street and Cornhill, but I haven't found it on any of the maps. Source: George Berry "Taverns and Tokens of Pepys London"

Retearivs   Link to this

Colin:

The Queen's Remembrancer and the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer are still going strong, too. The Queen's Remembrancer may date from twelve hundred and something.

Terry F   Link to this

Of the regular royal touch for 'the king's evil' --

"on the 23rd of June, a few days earlier than the date fixed by Evelyn as that on which the king first began 'touch for ye evil.' A week later we find he stroked as many as two hundred and fifty persons. Friday was then appointed as the day for those suffering from this disease to come before the king; it was moreover decided that only two hundred persons should be presented each week and these were first to repair to Mr. [John] Knight, his majesty's surgeon, living at the Cross Guns, in Russell Street, Covent Garden, over against the Rose tavern, for tickets of admission...." http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/hs...

Terry Foreman   Link to this

The Divine Right of Kings

BBC Radio 4 - IN OUR TIME
First broadcast: Thursday 11 October 2007 - Duration: 45 minutes
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0080xph

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Divine Right of Kings. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the character Malcolm describes the magical healing powers of the king:

“How he solicits heaven,
Himself best knows; but strangely-visited people,
All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
The mere despair of surgery, he cures;
Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
Put on with holy prayers...”

The idea that a monarch could heal with his touch flowed from the idea that a king was sacred, appointed by God and above the judgement of earthly powers. It was called the Divine Right of Kings. The idea resided deep in the culture of 17th century Britain affecting the pomp of the Stuart Kings, the writings of Milton and Shakespeare and the political works of John Locke. It is a story that involves witches, regicide, scrofula, Macbeth, miraculous portraits and some of the greatest poetry in the English language.

With Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London; Tom Healy, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London; Clare Jackson, Lecturer and Director of Studies in History at Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Bill   Link to this

This ceremony is of great antiquity in England; perhaps it may be traced to Edward the Confessor. Sir John Fortescue, in his defence of the House of Lancaster against that of York, argued that the crown could not descend to a female, because the Queen is not qualified by the form of anointing her, used at the coronation, to cure the disease called the king's evil. Burns asserts, History of Parish Registers, p. 144, "that between 1660 and 1682, 92,107 persons were touched for the evil." Every one coming to the court for that purpose, brought a certificate signed by the minister and churchwardens, that he had not at any time been touched by His Majesty.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

A bit more on the history of the King's Evil

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuberculous_cervi...

MarkS   Link to this

Receiving a gold coin worth ten shillings must have been a good incentive for poor people to go and receive the king's touch, quite apart from anything else.

Arthur Perry   Link to this

Can anyone provide a link to an image of an example of the "stamp of gold"?

MarkS   Link to this

A good example is the touch-piece which belonged to Dr. Samuel Johnson, and is now kept in the British Museum:

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights...

Johnson suffered from scrofula as a child, and bore the scars all his life. in 1712, at the age of two and a half he was taken to London to be touched by Queen Anne.

"His mother ... carried him to London, where he was actually touched by Queen Anne. Mrs. Johnson indeed, as Mr. Hector informed me, acted by the advice of the celebrated Sir John Floyer, then a physician in Lichfield. Johnson used to talk of this very frankly; and Mrs. Piozzi has preserved his very picturesque description of the scene, as it remained upon his fancy. Being asked if he could remember Queen Anne, 'He had (he said) a confused, but somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds, and a long black hood.' This touch, however, was without any effect. I ventured to say to him, in allusion to the political principles in which he was educated, and of which he ever retained some odour, that 'his mother had not carried him far enough; she should have taken him to ROME.' [i.e. to the Old Pretender]
- Boswell, Life of Johnson

Johnson wore the touch-piece round his neck for the rest of his life.

That is an example of a touch-piece specially created for the purpose. Previously a gold 'angel' coin was used, with a hole bored through it. After gold angels ceased to be minted, similar special stamped medals were produced like the one given to Johnson.

Here is the angel coin which was used previously:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_%28coin%29

Tonyel   Link to this

There is also a Cardinal's Cap Alley and a parallel Rose Alley across the river in Southwark. The story I was told was that the cardinal's parishioners caught him visiting Rose ("no better than she ought to be") and chased him up the next alley where he lost his cap.

HRW   Link to this

Thankyou for the excellent examples of "touch coins".

Dick Wilson   Link to this

"Touching for the King's Evil" did no good for those touched, of course, apart from the touch-piece. However the practice did expose the King to people with virulent skin diseases. Is there any record indicating that a king caught anything contagious from the supplicants?

MarkS   Link to this

"Is there any record indicating that a king caught anything contagious from the supplicants?"

Scrofula is not actually a skin disease. It's a form of tuberculosis which affects the lymph nodes rather than the lungs. It was normally spread by drinking milk from an infected cow. I doubt whether it could be transferred by touching the external swellings or lesions.

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