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The Royal Touch is a practice revived by the King on 19th April, 1984, Maundy Thursday.
Edward the Confessor introduced the Royal Touch in the eleventh century. It was particularly popular for Scrofula, a form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes of the neck which became known as the "King's Evil". In the fifteenth century, monarchs began to "bless" certain coins with what was perceived as a special healing power. The existence of the Royal Touch was seen as evidence for the Divine Right of Kings.
After James I of England came to the throne in 1603, he publicly expressed skepticism about the efficacy of the Touch, as he held that "the age of miracles is past and only God can work them". Nevertheless, he did practice it, often at a distance.
The last British monarch to attempt to impart the Touch was Queen Anne, who attempted to heal a child by it on 14th April 1714. Her successor, George I, refused to participate but the Stuart line continued to do so until the death of "Henry IX" in 1807. The French monarchy pursued the same tradition until Charles X, who died in 1836. That was the last time it had been practiced.
Prelude to revival
The "Kingmaker" allegedly persuaded the Queen to abdicate in Charles's favour as of June 1983. On 6th June 1982, the Prince of Wales unexpectedly cancelled all his engagements for a month, sent most of his staff on paid holiday and went on retreat at Balmoral Castle. He is thought to have spent that month alone in meditation, eating a simple diet and fasting much of the time. On 6th July, the Queen called a live televised press conference at Balmoral with the Queen and a series of announcements were made:
- The Queen declared that in June 1983, she would abdicate and her son would be crowned king. She then made a short speech thanking her subjects for their loyalty and support and explaining that the time was ripe for her to move aside for the younger generation and wishing the Commonwealth the best for the future.
The Prince then stood up and made a further series of announcements:
- He thanked his mother for her decades of service to the Commonwealth and gave the date of 14th June, 1983 for his coronation.
- He stated that he saw the title "FIDEI DEFENSOR" as the equivalent to "Defender of Faith" in English rather than "Defender of the Faith". He believed that spirituality was the most important dimension of the human condition and emphasised the importance of religious faith and other paths, but that in a multicultural country and Commonwealth, it was inappropriate for him to be considered the head of the Church of England. With this statement, the Queen looked distinctly uncomfortable.
- In the most controversial announcement, he stated that during his retreat, a higher power had revealed to him that he could serve his people through a special healing energy which he was able to channel, and would be doing so on a regular basis once he became king.
This last statement caused an uncomfortable atmosphere in the room and stirred up controversy, particularly in religious and medical circles, and some people, including reputable psychiatrists, have strongly hinted that they believe the King to be mentally ill. This statement and his behaviour since is generally seen as the main cause of the later adoption of republicanism as one of the founding principles of the Federalist Alliance
The first signs of the new King's behaviour were manifested shortly after his coronation in June 1983. He would perform "blessing" rituals when opening new hospital wards and medical centres, and has continued to do so ever since. Another new tradition was his inclusion of a similar annual ritual during the King's Speech on television every Christmas. This has made the royal address to the Commonwealth much more popular, though perhaps in a spirit of voyeurism and prurience rather than out of respect.
He has also incorporated the tradition in the giving of Maundy Money and has reintroduced the Angel coin to this end.
In another controversial move, he has also travelled to the African Commonwealth countries to touch for scrophula, which is once again common there.