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James II touchpiece c.1685-88

1.84 cm (diameter) | RCIN 443158

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  • At the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II reintroduced to England the ceremony of 'Touching for the King’s Evil' – an ancient practice carried out in the belief that the monarch possessed a Christ-like ability to cure victims of scrofula (a disease of the lymph nodes) by laying his hand upon them.

    At the ceremony, sufferers were given a coin known as a 'healing piece' or 'touchpiece' to wear on a ribbon around the neck, which showed that the patient had been healed by the monarch. By the time of Charles II a gold coin called an angel, worth as much as 11s, was given as a touchpiece. The obverse shows St Michael slaying Satan, depicted as a Dragon; the reverse a sailing-ship. Initially it seems that Charles handed out angels from the previous three reigns as touchpieces, but in February 1665 a new form of the angel was minted for use as a touchpiece, not valid as currency. 

    The touchpieces minted during James II's time are slightly different to those minted during Charles II's. As well as showing the change in the monarch's name, they are also slightly smaller. James II continued to touch for the King's Evil after he went into exile, as did his Jacobite successors, but the touchpieces then minted had to be in silver.

    Entry adapted from Charles II: Art & Power, (London: 2017)

    1 medal : gold
    Obverse: A ship sailing left. . IACO . II . D . G . M . B . FR . ET . HI . REX.
    Reverse: St. Michael slaying the dragon. SOLI DEO GLORIA
    Die axis: 1h
  • Medium and techniques

    1.84 cm (diameter)

    1.75 g (Weight) (whole object)