king's evil


king's evil
   An old term for scrofula. Kings of England and France claimed to heal it by their touch - a gift conferred by God through the oil used at their coronation. The first English ruler to 'touch for the evil' was Edward the Confessor; several Plantagenets did so, and especially the Tudors and Stuarts, including the Queens Regnant - Mary, Elizabeth, and Anne. In a religious ceremony devised by Henry VII, the sovereign would stroke the sufferer's neck, first with the hand and then with a gold coin; this coin was to be worn as a pendant till the cure was complete. To prevent abuse, those asking to be healed had to bring certificates from their parishes that they really were sick and had not been previously touched by the monarch.
   The Stuarts regarded the power as intrinsic to their sacred kingship; Charles II is known to have touched 90,798 sufferers. The Hanoverians refused to do any touching, but the ritual remained in the Book of Common Prayer till 1744; the exiled Stuarts continued to do so on the Continent. Until late in the 18th century scrofulaics visited the bloodstained shirt worn by Charles I on the scaffold and preserved at Ashburnham (Sussex), in hope of a cure.
   Alternative popular cures were the touch of a 'seventh son or a 'blacksmith, or a 'toad's leg in a silk bag round one's neck. Reginald Scot said one might also touch the place with the hand of someone that died an untimely death, or get a naked virgin to lay her hand on it, fasting, and spit on it three times ((1584): book 12, chapter 14).
   ■ Thomas, 1971: 192-8; Raymond Crawfurd, The King's Evil (1911); Marcel Bloch, Les Rois Thaumaturges (1925), reprinted 1961.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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  • King's evil — King King, n. [AS. cyng, cyning; akin to OS. kuning, D. koning, OHG. kuning, G. k[ o]nig, Icel. konungr, Sw. konung, Dan. konge; formed with a patronymic ending, and fr. the root of E. kin; cf. Icel. konr a man of noble birth. [root]44. See {Kin} …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • king's evil — Evil E vil ([=e] v l) n. 1. Anything which impairs the happiness of a being or deprives a being of any good; anything which causes suffering of any kind to sentient beings; injury; mischief; harm; opposed to {good}. [1913 Webster] Evils which our …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • king's evil — n. [transl. of ML regius morbus: from the notion that a king s touch could cure it] Obs. SCROFULA …   English World dictionary

  • king's evil — scrofula, late 14c., translates M.L. regius morbus; so called because the kings of England and France claimed to heal it by their touch. In England, the custom dates from Edward the Confessor and was continued through the Stuarts (Charles II… …   Etymology dictionary

  • king's evil — historic term for cervical tuberculous lymphadenitis (scrofula) which was formerly thought to be curable by the touch of a king. * * * king s evil kiŋz ē vəl, vil n, often cap K&E SCROFULA …   Medical dictionary

  • king's evil — noun (usu. the king s evil) historical scrofula, formerly held to be curable by the royal touch …   English new terms dictionary

  • king's evil — noun scrofula Suppose the person the matter is taken from, has the kings evil, the pox, madness, or some other inveterate disease I am sure the inoculator can give no reason why it should not convey one distemper as well as the other …   Wiktionary

  • king's evil — noun Usage: often capitalized K&E Etymology: from the former belief that it could be healed by a king s touch Date: 14th century scrofula …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • king's evil — scrofula: so called because it was supposed to be curable by the touch of the reigning sovereign. [1350 1400; ME kynges evel] * * * ▪ medical disorder        scrofula (q.v.), or struma, a tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands, once popularly… …   Universalium

  • king’s evil — scrofula (lymphgland tuberculosis) …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games