Touchpiece issued by Henry VII, England, monarch from 1485-1509

1485-1509 in England

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Four Gold Angel coins. Touchpieces in the ceremony of healing by touch. Plan ciew. Dark grey background.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Gold angel, used as touchpiece to the sick in the ceremony of healing by touch, design indicates 2nd coinage, possible pheon mint mark, issued by Henry VII 1485-1509

From the Middle Ages, it was believed that English and French monarchs had the power to heal through touch. Henry VII (1547-1509) gave the ‘royal touch’ to this touchpiece and passed it on to his subjects in the hope of curing scrofula, a form of tuberculosis that was also known as the ‘King’s Evil’. Touchpieces were pierced so that they could be suspended by a ribbon and worn around the neck. Some monarchs actually placed their hands on people with scrofula.

This tradition of ‘royal touch’ began with Edward the Confessor (1003–66) and continued until the end of Queen Anne’s reign in 1714, with Charles II touching over 90,000 people in this way before his death in 1685. The power to heal was believed to pass from monarch to monarch and was deemed, like the monarch’s power to rule, to be God-given. The touchpiece is shown here with three other examples (A125611, A125612, A152328).


Ethnography and Folk Medicine
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