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KINGS OF ENGLAND.
AS the following subject, which has exercised the faith and incredulity of mankind for so many ages, comes before me in the light of a religious ceremonial, I shall not attempt to defend or depreciate the validity of this gift; though it may be necessary to observe some circumstances as they occur, which may point different ways. Well-attested instances of the effect of this power of healing may be produced; though other examples are too ludicrous and futile to attract serious at* tention. We may, however, in these enlightened and unsuperstitious times, speak freely on a subject, which for many years, I may say centuries, absorbed the faith of whole Nations; viz. the Cure of the King's Evil by the Royal Touch. As Mr. Addison, in the quality of The Spectator, professed a modest veneration for a couple of sticks, if concealed under petticoats; so am I loyally and religiously induced to " honour the King," as a part of our excellent Constitution: but why Kings should have in themselves a preternatural gift above other men, by healing the most stubborn of all diseases, exceeds my comprehension. Every body is, at this time, I dare believe, of the same opinion; and this foolish affectation of a divine inherent power has wisely been laid aside, ever since the accession of the House of Hanover.
If Kings really possessed such an uncommon, such a wonderful gift, why has it been taken away? The same legal rights remain in the Royal Person now that have adhered, to it for ages — while this Divine Prerogative has fallen away; or rather let us say, that the incredulity of the world has increased. . .
The cases brought forward by the advocates for this Gift are exceedingly strong and well attested; but yet there is something so palpably absurd in the mere supposition, that the evidence, when brought forward, will be found to destroy itself on a cross-examination.
As to the subject, and all its wonderful consequences, I have just as much faith as I have in the two following circumstances:
Lord Bolingbroke tells us, from Bodin, Amyot, and other writers, that Ferdinand King of Spain, and Alphonsus King of Naples, were cured of desperate distempers by reading Livy and Quintus Curtius * Again, there was such astonishing virtue in Quintus Curtius, that we are further told, Alphonsus IX. King of Spainf was healed by readinohis works, after having in vain read the Bible throughout fourteen times + Credat qui
* Bolingbroke, on the Study of History, p. 22.
t Obiit 1214. Query if not the same as Alphonsus above?
X Warton's History of English Poetry, p. 133.
wilt. And yet I could as soon subscribe to these, as to the cures performed by the Royal Touch.
Anciently there was great reputed sanative virtue in a seventh sort; and he was looked upon as a heaven-born Doctor, and those his medical abilities were reverenced for that reason only by the common people. So far the Doctor would be safe^ and might kill with impunity; but it was a crime to heah
Thus I have a case before me in the Reign of King Charles I. where a poor unfortunate man, who was the seventh son of a seventh son, and never killed any body (for he was a gardener, and not a physician), was severely treated, because he pretended to have in him the faculty Of healing several disorders, and especially the King's Evil^ by the Touch or stroking of his hand. This mail was imprudent enough to depreciate the Royal Touch; otherwise, at that time, he might have obtained a comfortable subsistence from his credulous patients; but that unfortunate intrenchment on the Royal Prerogative drew down upon him the double vengeance of the Court of Star-Chamber, and of the College of Physicians; which last, in the most courtly manner, denounced him to be an impostor*. Delenda est Carthago. It was highly necessary for the reputation of the Royal pretensions that this man should be proscribed.
The next person who appears to have usurped this Gift was Mr. Valentine Greatrackes, a gentleman of Ireland, who first practised his art of healing by the Touch in his own country; and afterwards came into England, where, at first, he obtained great reputation, which fell off by degrees, so that there was no occasion for any violent measures to prevent his intrenching on the Royal Prerogative.
This gentleman wrote an account of his several cures, in a Letter to the Honourable Robert Boyle, which was printed in 1668. Whether Mr. Boyle was a believe? I know not; but it was at a time when the King practised, so that he might think it prudent to conceal his real sentiments.
* See the story at large in Granger, from Dr. Charles Goodall's Works.