The Royal Touch in Early Modern England

The Royal Touch in Early Modern England

Politics, Medicine and Sin

Stephen Brogan


Royal Historical Society



First modern analysis of the custom of the "royal touch" in the Tudor and Stuart reigns.
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.


November 2015
9 colour, 14 black and white, 3 line illustrations
285 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
ISBN: 9780861933372
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Royal Historical Society
BISAC HIS037020, HIS015000, MED039000
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Table of Contents

The origins and medieval history of the royal touch, 1000-1485
The Tudors: revival and reform of royal therapeutics, 1485-1603
The royal touch and the Stuart monarchy, 1603-1688
The ritual process of the royal touch, 1660-1688
The Restoration debate: the rise of ambivalence and scepticism, 1660-1688
The royal touch and the early English Enlightement, 1689-1750


There is an immense amount of data here, clearly detailed and helpfully synthesized. REVIEWS IN HISTORY

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