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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

royal touch Part of the tradition of divine healing through the touch of special persons is validated from scriptural references to such healings by Christ and the disciples and in direct instruction from Christ to his disciples in Matthew 10:8:  


      Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.

      European royalty decided that because they claimed to rule by divine right they could also claim to have the divine ability to heal. As early as 1307, people in need of healing were visiting Philip the Fair, King of France, for his holy touch. Soon, beginning with Edward the Confessor (ruled 1042-1066) the English kings were “touching” for scrofula, a tubercular inflammation of the lymph nodes often confused with similar afflictions of the face and eyes. Thus originated the “royal touch,” which was said to be effective against this condition, and the disease became known in those days as the “king's evil.” The last person said to have been “touched” in England was Dr. Samuel Johnson, in 1712, by queen Anne. He was only thirty months old, so could not have known better than to participate.
      The presence and involvement of kings doubtless had an effect upon people with psychosomatic and quite imaginary ailments, and subjects eagerly provided affidavits to the monarchs in support of strong belief in this sort of healing.
      In the eighteenth century, the Earl of Chesterfield took it up, much to the embarrassment of his friends.



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