Well, more anon.—Comes the king forth, I pray you?
Ay, sir; there are a crew of wretched souls
That stay his cure. Their malady convinces
The great assay of art, but at his touch—
Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand—
They presently amend.
I thank you, doctor.
What’s the disease he means?
‘Tis called the evil.
A most miraculous work in this good king,
Which often since my here-remain in England
I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
Himself best knows, but strangely visited people,
All swoll’n and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
The mere despair of surgery, he cures,
Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
Put on with holy prayers. And, ’tis spoken,
To the succeeding royalty he leaves
The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy,
And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
That speak him full of grace.
Macbeth, Act 4. Scene 3.
[N]o one is so perfectly cured, as not to be attacked again by the same disease, if he be so unfortunate to lose the coin which the king hangs about his neck when he is touched, in which case he must be touched again.
à la Haye, Relation … du Voyage et Sèjour du Roy de la Grande Bretagne &c., 1660.
AT THE HEALING.
PREVENT us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help, that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Holy Gospel is written in the 16th Chapter of Saint Mark, beginning at the 14th Verse.
JESUS appeared unto the Eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.
Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.
OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.
¶ Then shall the infirm Persons, one by one, be presented to the Queen upon their Knees; and as every one is presented and while the Queen is laying Her Hands upon them, and putting the Gold about their Necks, the Chaplain that officiates, turning himself to her Majesty, shall say these words following:
GOD give a Blessing to this Work; and grant that these sick Persons, on whom the Queen lays her Hands, may recover, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
¶ After all have been presented, the Chaplain shall say,
[These answers are to be made by them that come to be Healed.]
Vers. O Lord, save thy servants;
Resp. Who put their trust in thee.
Vers. Send unto them help from thy holy place.
Resp. And evermore mightily defend them.
Vers. Help us, O God of our Salvation.
Resp. And for the glory of thy Name deliver us, and be merciful unto us sinners, for thy Name’s sake.
Vers. O Lord, hear our prayers.
Resp. And let our cry come unto thee.
Let us pray.
O ALMIGHTY God, who art the Giver of all health, and the aid of them that seek to thee for succour, we call upon thee for thy help and goodness mercifully to be shewed upon these thy servants, that they being healed of their Infirmities may give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
¶ Then the Chaplain, standing with his face towards them that come to be healed, shall say,
THE Almighty Lord, who is a most strong tower to all them that put their trust in him, to whom all things in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, do bow and obey, be now and evermore thy defence; and make you know and feel, that there is none other Name under heaven given to man, in whom, and through whom, thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.
(As appended to the Book of Common Prayer during the reign of Queen Anne. The service was thus retained in a Prayer-Book printed in the fifth or sixth year of George I, though it is said that the queen was the last (de facto) sovereign to touch for the sure of the Evil.)
* * *
The practice of the Royal Healing seems to have reached its zenith during the reign of Charles II (evidently no fewer than ninety-two thousand persons availed themselves of His Majesty’s touch during the twenty years following the Restoration). After the Revolution, William of Orange, on being requested to touch, refused to do so, referring applicants instead to his exiled uncle at St. Germain. Anne touched frequently, one of her last patients being Dr. Samuel Johnson. Like William III, George I (and the succeeding Hanoverians) positively refused to touch, perhaps on account of the extravagance of the display, to which the monarch was temperamentally averse, or perhaps because the service seemed too Catholic, but the Stuarts continued the practice in exile — James III, Charles Edward Stuart, and finally by the Cardinal Duke, whose Diary contains a great many entries to this effect.