Our recent visit to the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh was a fantastic trip and the collections of objects on show was brilliant. Amongst the artefacts were some unique touch pieces that were used during the Jacobites Risings.
Touch pieces were typically a coin or a medal that was believed to cure diseases or bring good luck. During the Jacobites Risings the Stuarts were believed to have the ‘royal touch’ and they were able to help cure people simply by touching them.
Most Jacobite touch pieces were used to help cure people of scrofula, a form of tuberculosis. The disease was also known as the ‘King’s or Queen’s Evil’ and many people “found” themselves cured after being touched by a monarch. This was seen to be proof that the monarch had the divine right to rule directly from God. However, scrofula was not generally fatal and could cure itself but that didn’t stop the idea of the ‘royal touch’ from growing.
When James VII & II was deposed and William and Mary took the throne they refused to participate in the ‘royal touch’. This furthered the idea for some Jacobites that Mary and William were not the rightful heirs to the thrones. When Mary’s sister, Anne took the throne she apparently shared William and Mary’s views and did not wish to touch people but her advisers convinced her to restart the practice.
All the Jacobite Stuarts, including Charles Edward Stuart and his brother Henry Benedict Stuart, were known to have carried out the ceremony to help cure their followers. There are lots of records of Jacobite touch pieces being made, it is believed the majority were made from silver, although there were gold versions produced.
The Stuart royal family were one of the last main users of touch pieces in British history as the practice eventually stopped, many believe this is because it was seen as too Catholic.
We hope you enjoyed finding out a wee bit more about touch pieces as always please like, tweet, comment, share and be sure to check out the Jacobite exhibition at the NMS in Edinburgh for yourselves.
All the best, K & D