Jacobean touchpieces, English, 1610-1620.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Three gold touchpieces isued by James I (1603-1625), used in the ceremony of healing by touch, thought to cure a widespread disfiguring form of tuberculosis called scrofula. The practice of 'Touching for the King's Evil' relied on the belief that the monarch posesed supernatural powers and that gold held curative properties. A newly minted coin showing an image of an angel would be used to touch the sufferer's afflicted part, and would thereafter be worn by the patient as a medal on a ribbon around his neck.