About the object

The King’s Evil

The letters E and H are inscribed on one side of the coin. These might be the child’s or parent’s initials, but we haven’t been able to link this token with a child yet.

Before being used as a token, this object was given to someone with a disease called scrofula, swellings in the neck caused by tuberculosis of the lymph glands. It was also known as ‘The King’s Evil’ because of a centuries-old belief that being touched by the king or queen would cure it.

Medal as medicine

In a ceremony, the king or queen touched the person suffering from scrofula. The monarch then put a coin or medal such as this one – known as a ‘touch piece’ – around their neck on a ribbon to keep the disease away. Healing through royal touch was begun by Edward the Confessor (ruled 1042–1066). It stems from the belief that the monarch was a channel for divine power. This medal dates from the reign of Charles II (ruled 1660–1685) who is said to have touched 4,000 subjects a year.

Wearing an Angel

This touch piece was designed to look like the ‘Angel’ coins that had been used in royal touching ceremonies since the fifteenth century. The name comes from the image of the archangel Michael killing a dragon on one side of the coin. This scene of good triumphing over evil, together with gold’s association with purity, reinforced the idea that this object had healing power.