The King's Evil

Scrofula, a tubercular disorder afflicting the skin with draining sores and ugly scars. French and English tradition regarded the disease curable by the monarch's touch, hence the term “the king's evil.” Presenting those afflicted to the king may date from the reign of Edward the Confessor (d.1066). The practice certainly existed in the court of Louis IX (d.1270) in France. His curative power was supposedly passed to the Valois monarchs of France and to English royalty through Edward III (d.1377). The latter embellished the practice by presenting the sufferer with a touchpiece or coin serving as a talisman. At times the touching was accompanied by ablutions and litanies. The last to practice the rite were the English Stuarts.