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James II touchpiece c.1685-88

1.84 cm (diameter) | RCIN 443158

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  • Touchpiece used in the ceremony of 'Touching for the King's Evil', a disease of the lymph glands, also known as scrofula, which was popularly believed to be cured if the monarch touched the sufferer. The custom began in France under the crusader-king, St Louis IX (1226-70). When Edward III of England (1327-77) laid claim to the throne of France as the surviving grandson of Philip IV, through his mother Isabella, he also began touching for the King's Evil. Each sufferer was given a token or touchpiece, pierced so that it could be worn on a ribbon round the neck. From the reign of Edward IV this was usually an angel, a gold coin worth 6s 8d, depicting St Michael slaying the dragon on one side, and a ship under sail on the other. The angel continued as a currency issue until the reign of Charles I, but was not revived after the Restoration. However, gold tokens, still depicting St Michael and the ship, were produced specifically for those touched by Charles II and James II. William and Mary declined to perform the ceremony, but Queen Anne revived it. Although the Hanoverian kings did not continue the custom, the Jacobite Stuarts did, but their touchpieces were silver.
  • Medium and techniques
    Measurements

    1.84 cm (diameter)

    1.75 g (Weight) (whole object)