Saturday 13 April 1661

To Whitehall by water from Towre-wharf, where we could not pass the ordinary way, because they were mending of the great stone steps against the Coronacion. With Sir W. Pen, then to my Lord’s, and thence with Capt. Cuttance and Capt. Clark to drink our morning draught together, and before we could get back again my Lord was gone out. So to Whitehall again and, met with my Lord above with the Duke; and after a little talk with him, I went to the Banquethouse, and there saw the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one. That done to my Lord’s and dined there, and so by water with parson Turner towards London, and upon my telling of him of Mr. Moore to be a fit man to do his business with Bishop Wren, about which he was going, he went back out of my boat into another to Whitehall, and so I forwards home and there by and by took coach with Sir W. Pen and Captain Terne and went to the buriall of Captain Robert Blake, at Wapping, and there had each of us a ring, but it being dirty, we would not go to church with them, but with our coach we returned home, and there staid a little, and then he and I alone to the Dolphin (Sir W. Batten being this day gone with his wife to Walthamstow to keep Easter), and there had a supper by ourselves, we both being very hungry, and staying there late drinking I became very sleepy, and so we went home and I to bed.

43 Annotations

First Reading

daniel  •  Link

a dirty ring?

what would this have been? what ritual does this refer to?

Nix  •  Link

From the context (without knowing the actual custom) I'm guessing that "had each of us a ring" means that each of them rang the churchbell once, as part of the funeral pealing, and that "it being dirty" refers to the weather.

Does anyone have any more concrete information?

Susan  •  Link

I think it refers to the dirt of the ground - i.e. it was too muddy for them to get out of the coach, so they drove off again after receiving their mourning rings through the coach window. Any other ideas as to what this means?
Also re, touching for the King's Evil - this went on for ages - Samual Johnson as a child was taken to be "touched" to clear up his skin condition.

dirk  •  Link

"there saw the King heal"

Can anybody clarify what's going on here? If I understand Susan correctly, it involves touching in order to cure a skin disease?

Bradford  •  Link

Re the King's Touch: "it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one."
The L&M Companion cites this passage when it glosses "simple" as meaning, not uncomplicated, but "foolish."
No doubt someone with the complete L&M can explain the history of a divine sovereign's ability to heal by touch. A famous painting by the French artist Gros of "The Pest House at Jaffa" shows Napoleon, in imitation of this custom, reaching out to touch a victim of leprosy.

dirk  •  Link

"some divine sovereigns' ability to heal by touch"

It's called "thaumaturgy", and Thomas de Quincey, in his "Autobiographic Sketches", states:

"The dreadful taint of scrofula, according to the belief of all Christendom, fled at the simple touch of a Stuart [11] sovereign: no miracle in the Bible, from Jordan or from Bethesda, could be more sudden or more astoundingly victorious."

Note [11]: "Of a Stuart sovereign," and by no means of a Stuart only. Queen Anne, the last Stuart who sat on the British throne, was the last of our princes who touched for the king's evil, (as scrofula was generally called until lately;) but the Bourbon houses, on the thrones of France, Spain, and Naples, as well as the house of Savoy, claimed and exercised the same supernatural privilege down to a much later period than the year 1714--the last of Queen Anne: according to their own and the popular faith, they could have cleansed Naaman the Syrian, and Gehazi too."


steve h  •  Link

Funeral ring

It was the custom for the well-off to give out rings at funerals to the mourners and/or heirs inscribed with the name of the deceased. Here's an excerpt from an American will in 1665:
"I desire my gold and Diamond ring to be sent to my dear and loving wife Agnes Johnson, living in Durham, Lancashire, England. I leave to his Excellency Governor Benjamin Fletcher a golden funeral ring, for a remembrance."

You might want to check out an interesting collection of excerpts from American wills of this period at: http://www.bklyn-genealogy-info.c…

here's another decription of the custom at

"sometime around the seventeenth century, a new fad arose. It was the funeral ring. Here's how that worked. Instructions, before death, were given by those with enough foresight and money to plan ahead, to purchase, with monies set aside, a pre-determined amount of funeral rings to be given as mementos to friends and family, and who knows, maybe even to foe, as reminders that Kilroy was once here. ... The shank of the ring, appropriately, was carved in the shape of a skeleton holding a crystal in the shape of a casket which rested on its shoulders."

steve h  •  Link

It being dirty

This clearly means that, the weather being dirty (rain or worse), they decided to skip the service at church and went out to supper (and ddrinking).

Paul Brewster  •  Link

the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one
I think we've been here before:…

Susan  •  Link

We have had several instances recently of Sam being very aware of status and he enjoys ego-boosting happenings such as people showing him deference. Here, I think, is another instance of this - Sam made sure he got his mourning ring as a sign that he was thought of as important enough to be given one, but he also thought the deceased not important enought to warrant getting muddy feet for!

Paul Brewster  •  Link

the King heal
Just in case anyone was wondering why we have a reference back to June 23rd of last year: On that date, SP wrote: "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.” So this is literally “the first time that ever I saw him do it”.

Paul Brewster  •  Link

By the way, for such an "ugly office and simple one", L&M note that "Pepys kept in his library an engraving by Robert White of Charles II performing the ceremony." It also seems a popular affair. According to an L&M footnote: "In February-April 1661, 1425 persons were touched."

Paul Brewster  •  Link

Another odd glimpse from an L&M footnote: "Men's funerals were commonly attended by men only."

Hic retearius  •  Link

"the funeral pealing"

Further confirmation on ringing: tower bells hung for full circle ringing, as they are in England, require a very special technique of the ringer lest he lose his arm: a ton or more of metal in rapid motion is not to be argued with. Some bells weigh very much more than a ton. The machinery was designed centuries before the industrial safety inspector appeared! (No detail has been altered to this day today, by the way, more than 400 years later. Ringers of Sam's day would be perfectly at home when stepping into today's ringing chambers and the terminology is identical to theirs.) Anyone off the street is not permitted, literally, even to touch a rope in a ringing chamber. Were Sam a change ringer, be assured that we would have read about that by now.

Ruben  •  Link

I do not want to spoil it, but in the future, in due time, when Samuel Pepys went the way of all living, rings were given to the mourners. Some of them are still around. (I remember seing a picture in the Internet).
As SP will not write about his own burial, I see no reason not to make this point.

Susan  •  Link

In Victorian times it was common to make ornaments of the hair of the deceased. I have a mourning locket from my family and a ring - both with hair. I don't know if that predates the 19th century.

Firenze  •  Link

Touching for the King's Evil: I believe the monarch did not actually touch the afflicted, but rather a medal, which was then hung about the neck. I have read a speculation that many of those brought were probably given the first thorough washing of their lives, and a few skin conditions may have cleared up in consequence.

Rich Merne  •  Link

"an ugly office", I think this indicates Sam's own distaste in observing at close quarters, unfortunates suffering from nasty and advanced disorders. The King's Evil, scrofula may not have been the worst of them.

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

Hair Mourning Rings (Susan, above)

These items have appeared on the "Antiques Roadshow" several times,(sentimental value only), and on each occasion the expert(s) attributed them to the "high Victorian", so it seems to have been a short-lived practice.

Susan  •  Link

Thanks for that Kevin. Personally I think it is a rather gruesome practice! The Victorians seem to have developed a huge death culture, with many rituals and artefacts.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

"I became very sleepy..."; this is one of the few times Sam is admitting he is tired. No small wonder after these last brimful days!

JWB  •  Link

(Sir W. Batten being this day gone...
Note that the two Wms. inseparable. Mono-Wm. calls for posting.

Glyn  •  Link

Paul B: "Another odd glimpse from an L&M footnote: "Men's funerals were commonly attended by men only.”

Not that odd surely. My father died at our home in South Wales in 1980, and only we men went to the interment after the church service with his sisters, my mother, his daughters staying at home. Is that particularly unusual?

And when Ruben says “rings were given to the mourners. Some of them are still around.” I really, really do hope that he meant the rings rather than the mourners.

Roger Arbor  •  Link

King's Healing... JRR Tolkien took this up in "Return of the King" (not in the movie alas). The Wise Woman of Gondor: "The touch of the King is the touch of a healer".

Nigel Pond  •  Link

Victorian death culture...

Hardly surprising as Queen Victoria remained in mourning for Prince Albert until her death.

Ruben  •  Link

The London Museum site has a picture of a ring "Memento Mori" and some information on SP's funeral ring.
Look at:…
and enjoy.
As for the mourners fate, I have no idea of their whereabouts...

Ruben  •  Link

- May be SP got a recently painted ring, so it was "dirty" (or fresh).
- May be he decided not to wear the ring till it was dry, so he did not see reason to go to church at that moment.
- May be he received a low quality ring and was offended (considering himself above others that received better rings).

Mary  •  Link

It's not the ring that's dirty:

it's the weather in the streets/and the streets.

We still, in England at least, refer to dirty weather, a filthy night etc.

Vicente  •  Link

"...and there had each of us a ring, but it being dirty[night and muddy], we would not go to church with them[and get{BL****} soaking wet], but with our coach [and stay comfortable] we returned home..."
I agree with Mary, Dirty being a Dirty night also foul night is another expression for the glorious English Climate.
I do believe he omits in writing what he has in thoughts like this submitter requires, that is why submissions need a sub editor, then an editor before posting.

Ruben  •  Link

to Mary & Vicente:
thank you for the English (language and weather)lesson.
I am sure you understand better than me,a foreigner, SP's words.
May I say that I prefer your explanation because mine was bad for SP's character image and yours is, well, just indolence.

Rich Merne  •  Link

Are you volunteering for the 'postings' post, Vincente?

Canongate  •  Link

I don't believe these rings were unique to a particular time. Looking for an image of Pepys' funeral ring, I found that Nelson's rings seem to be easily seen on the internet and can be viewed on this site of the National Maritime Museum.…

Roger Browne  •  Link

The disease of scrofula is now known to be tuberculosis, known then as the "King's Evil" and thought by many to be curable by the royal touch. See

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Firenze wrote: "Touching for the King’s Evil: I believe the monarch did not actually touch the afflicted, but rather a medal, which was then hung about the neck"

Indeed; and this medal was called a "touch piece"

"The cure was usually more of a "laying on of hands" by the monarch and the Angel coin or medalet, etc., although touched by the monarch, was seen as a receipt or talisman of the potential of the monarch's healing power. Originally the king had paid for the support of the sufferer until he had recovered or died. The move to the gift of a gold coin touch piece may represent the compromise payment when the custom of "room and board" support by the king ceased. Coffee in the 18th and early 19th centuries was thought to be a relief, but not a cure for scrofula.

"The Angel coin was favoured at these ceremonies because it has on the obverse an image of St. Michael slaying the Devil represented as a dragon (actually a heraldic Wyvern). St. Michael, especially venerated for his role as captain of the heavenly host that drove Satan out of Heaven, was also associated with the casting out of devils and thus was regarded as a guardian of the sick.

"The monarch him/herself hung these touch piece amulets around the necks of sufferers. In later years Charles II only touched the medalet as he unsurprisingly disliked touching diseased people directly. He "touched" 92,107 people in the 21 years from 1661 to 1682, performing the function 8,500 times in 1682 alone....." [More here…

Second Reading

Long Memory  •  Link

The custom of bequeathing memorial rings was well-established by Pepys' day. When William Shakespeare died in 1616, his will left twenty-six shillings apiece to his friends Heminges, Condell and Burbage so they could purchase memorial rings. This was, apparently, a common gesture in Elizabethan wills.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

L&M note Pepys kept in his library an engraving by Robert White of Charles II performing the ceremony of the Royal touch:… PL 2975, 346 (b). In Februar-April 1425 persons were touched: John Browne, Charisma Basilican (1684), bk. iii, App. n.p.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"I went to the Banquethouse, and there saw the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one."

We have a page for The King's Evil aka Scrofula:…

Eric the Bish  •  Link

The adjective “dirty“ to describe the weather is still used in the maritime context, though always with a noun: “ It’s a dirty night, we had better put a reef in …“ etc.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

The King has been quite busy recently with being nice to people. Today it was with the Scrofulous, but Mercurius Politicus tells us that on Thursday last, "11 day, called Maundi Thursday, his Majesty was pleased to wash 31 poore mens feet in the Great Hall in Whit Hall, and gave evry man a purse of whit leather, in it 31 pence, and a red purse, in it a peece of gold, and a shurt, a sut of cloathes, shewes and stockings, a wooden dish and baskett, wherein was 4 loufes, half a salmon, a whole linge, and herrings redd and whit. Evry man drank claritt wine in the hall, and after service was don by the useall vicar that belonged to the Kings Chapel, also the sound of the organs, they all departed and said, God save the Kinge."

You bet they said that. The king normally touches twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays (or at least the Parliamentary Intelligencer said last year that was the schedule); but on those occasions all you get is a medal (and, OK, fresher-looking skin). But next week's the Coronacion, and so 'tis the season for handing out free fishes and loaves (we trust you get the allusion; and it's also part of our national campaign, England Eat Fish 1661, to help our brave fishermen), and cash, and of course the T-shirt ("Charles II - Best King Ever"). And clean feet, for what it's worth given the state of the streets. Only 31 poore mens, mind, not the hundreds that get Touched. Pity Sam wasn't there to see them shuffle out, clutching their half-salmons, at the end of that exquisitely organized, red-and-white photo op.

That's the sunny side. On the other side, the State Papers today have a Proclamation, "ordering all cashiered officers and soldiers of the late army to depart on or before April 19, and not come within 20 miles of London and Westminster till May 20"; also a letter from "Philip Constantine" to royal secretary Nicholas, advising of mutters "in a conversation about wearing daggers (...) that there were thousands now making in London"; "considering the numbers flocking to the coronation, thought it well to give timely notice". Mr Nicholas, pray send a note and a half-salmon to that man.

Cynara  •  Link

Thank you for that, Stephane!

RLB  •  Link

Re Roger Browne: scrofula is not, in fact, the same thing as tuberculosis. It is an infection of the lymph nodes which is often, but not always, caused by the tuberculosis bacterium; apparently much more often in adults but much less often in children. In any case, the symptoms of scrofula, from whatever cause, are quite different from tuberculosis proper.

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