Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/159

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

some, peculiarly English in its origin, was exercised in England for nearly seven hundred years. Edward the Confessor was the first who touched for the king's-evil, and transmitted the gift to all his successors. His power was attributed not to his royalty but to his sanctity, and there "seemed little reason why his successors, who were, as a rule, no saints, should be so specially favored." The kings of France also claimed the right to dispense the gift of healing, and traced their right to Clovis. Queen Anne was the last to exercise this gift in England, and it is well known that she touched, among others, the celebrated Dr. Johnson, who was brought to the King by his mother on the recommendation of Sir John Floyer, a distinguished physician of Litchfield.[1] William III had too much sense to pander to the superstitious feelings of many of his subjects, and never employed the touch but once, and then he said, on laying his hands on the patient, "May God give you better health and more sense!" Queen Elizabeth was averse to the practice, but extensively performed it. Charles II excelled all his predecessors and successors in this ceremony. During his reign he touched nearly one hundred thousand persons for the evil. One year (1682) over eight thousand sufferers were subjected to his sacred touch. The patients were first examined by the King's surgeons, and, if thought to be fitting objects of relief, they were given tickets to admit them to the royal presence. When admitted, the patient knelt and was touched by the King. The clerk of the closet now handed his Majesty a gold coin, to which was attached a piece of white ribbon, and, while the King hung this round the neck of the patient, others read the prayers and ceremonies specially appointed for this purpose. We are told that the gold was a token of good-will, and not necessary to the cure, as many were healed without it, or with silver employed instead. Evidences of the efficacy of the royal touch are not wanting: Jeremy Collier says of Edward the Confessor: "That this prince cured king's-evil is beyond dispute, and, since the credit of this miracle is unquestionable, I see no reason why we should not believe the rest." John Browne, surgeon to Charles II, and a man of eminence and reputation in his profession, wrote an "Anatomick-Chirurgical Treatise on Glandules and Struma?, together with the Royal Gift of Healing or Cure thereof by Contact or Imposition of Hands," etc. In this treatise he gives "many wonderful examples of cures by the sacred touch" of Charles II; he also relates several cases of scrofulous tumor and sore cured by being touched with handkerchiefs which had been dipped in the blood of the martyr Charles I, and asserts that the usurper Cromwell tried in vain to exercise this royal prerogative, "he having no more right to the healing power than he had to regal jurisdiction." Wiseman, in his work on surgery, which was the best book on the subject

  1. The gold coin presented to Dr. Johnson by the Queen is at the present time in the British Museum.