The Royal Touch in Early Modern England: Politics, Medicine and Sin

The Royal Touch in Early Modern England: Politics, Medicine and Sin

by Stephen Brogan


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The royal touch was the religious healing ceremony at which the monarch stroked the sores on the face and necks of people who had scrofula in order to heal them in imitation of Christ. The rite was practised by all the Tudor and Stuart sovereigns apart from William III, reaching its zenith during the Restoration when some 100,000 people were touched by Charles II and James II.

This book, the first devoted to the royal touch for almost a century, integrates political, religious, medical and intellectual history. The custom is analysed from above and below: the royal touch projected monarchical authority, but at the same time the great demand for it created numerous problems for those organising the ceremony. The healing rite is situated in the context of a number of early modern debates, including the cessation of miracles and the nature of the body politic. The book also assesses contemporary attitudes towards the royal touch, from belief through ambivalence to scepticism. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources including images, coins, medals, and playing cards, as well as manuscripts and printed texts, it provides an important new perspective on the evolving relationship between politics, medicine and sin in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.

Stephen Brogan is a Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he teaches early modern history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780861933372
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
Publication date: 11/20/2015
Series: Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series , #92
Pages: 285
Product dimensions: 6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations vi

List of tables vii

Acknowledgements ix

Abbreviations xii

Introduction 1

1 The origins and medieval history of the royal touch, 1000-1485 23

2 The Tudors: revival and reform of royal therapeutics, 1485-1603 45

3 The royal touch and the Stuart monarchy, 1603-1688 67

4 The ritual process of the royal touch, 1660-1688 120

5 The Restoration debate: the rise of ambivalence and scepticism, 1660-1688 151

6 The royal touch and the early English Enlightenment, 1689-1750 183

Conclusion 218

Bibliography 223

Index 259

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