[Royal Medical Broadside, cure for Scrofula] At the Court of Whitehall the Ninth of [J]anuary 1683. … Whereas by the Grace and Bl[e]ssing of God, the Kings and Queens of this Realm by many Ages past, have had the happiness by their Sacred Touch, and Invocation of the name of God, to cure those who are afflicted with the Disease called the Kings-Evil … His Majesty was [the]refore ... pleased to Declare in Council His Royal Will and Pleasure to be, That …the times of Publick Healings shall from henceforth be from the Feast of All Saints … till a week before Christmas; and after Christmas until the [F]irst Day of March.
London: printed by the Assigns of John Bill Deceas'd: and by Henry Hills, and Thomas Newcomb, Printers to the Kings most excellent Majesty, 1683 [i.e. 1684].
Broadside (15 x 12 inches). Woodcut royal arms at head, large decorative initial; surround to the initial letter of the text.
Condition: backed onto thin laid paper, old folds, now flattened, but with some resultant voids with quite minor loss to text.
Rare on the market: there is currently just one other copy for sale, and there are no other copies of this broadside listed as having sold at auction.
In the the Middle Ages it was believed in England and France that a touch from Royalty could heal the skin disease known as scrofula, or “the King’s Evil”. Scrofula normally manifested itself as a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck caused by tuberculosis.
The practice of laying on of hands began with Edward the Confessor in England and Philip I in France. Subsequent English and French kings were thought to have inherited this 'royal touch', and a demonstration of their healing abilities came to be seen (almost) as one of the 'proofs' of their God-given right to rule.
By the late 1400s it was believed that one could also be cured by touching a type of coin called an angel, which had been touched by the monarch. After angels ceased to be minted in the 1620s the same effect was said to be achieved by touching a gold medallion embossed much like the old coin.
Some monarchs 'touched' many people (Henry IV of France touched up to 1500 at one time). The last English monarch to carry out this practice was Queen Anne, who died in 1714, but it continued in France. Louis XV 'touched' more than 2000 scrofula sufferers, and the last French monarch to do this was Charles X in 1825 (Science Museum, London).
Cf. F Barlow, “The King's Evil,” The English Historical Review, 95/374 (January 1980), pp 3-27; M Bloch,The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scrofula in England and France (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973).
The present broadside, setting the dates for such ceremonies, is rare on the market. It also is signed in type by Lord Chief Justice (George) Jeffryes [sic], "tyhe Hanging Judge" amongst others.
- Size: 15 x 12ins ; 381 x 305mm