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The King’s Evil

Our coin auction on the 6th of October will feature four gold coins that Charles II handled himself when he gave them to four people as a cure for Scrofula, or the ‘Kings Evil’ as it was called then.

LOT 541 – Charles II, Gold Touch-Piece Medalet by Roett ier.

In the Middle Ages it was generally believed that Scrofula – a horrible disease of the lymph glands, resulting in discharging abscesses around the neck, could be cured by the king’s touch. As far back as Edward the Confessor, English kings had been healing sufferers of this disease by touching them and through the authority granted them by God, miraculously curing them!

By the thirteenth century, this ceremony also included the giving of a coin to the patient by the monarch. This coin was usually a gold angel (a 6 shillings and 8 pence piece), so called because it featured the archangel Michael, which was handed to the sufferer who then wore it as a talisman to ward off the disease.

By the restation, Charles II who was very eager to substantiate the divine right of kings, quickly reintroduced the practise as it had not taken place during the Commonwealth period. The angel coin had long since gone out of circulation, so Charles had a similar-looking gold medalet made specifically for the occasion which is about the size of a current 5p piece. After receiving the royal touch, Charles would then hang the gold angel, threaded on a ribbon, around the patient’s neck.

These ‘Touch Pieces’ are very rare and there are very few opportunities to buy a coin given by Charles II – and a rare chance to acquire an extraordinary, if not questionable, medical cure!

Written by Richard Gladdle

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