Touching the King's Evil
'The gift of miracles, and particularly the gift of curing diseases without natural medicine, was so given by Christ to His Apostles as not to be at their absolute disposal, but to be dispensed by them as the driver should think fit. St. Paul, though as great a worker of miracles as any of the Apostles—though he even raised the dead to life, yet could not cure himself of that thorn in the flesh, that painful disease which Satan, by God's permission, had inflicted on him.
Hereby it appears, that this gift of God was so bestowed on the Apostles that they could not exercise it arbitrarily and at their own pleasure, but only when, where, how, and on whom God pleased to direct them to use that power, that so the glory of all the wonderful cures wrought by them might at last redound to God the author, and not to man the instrument.
And perhaps this is the best account that can be given of the relique and remnant of the. primitive gift of healing for some hundreds of years past, visible in our nation, and annexed to the succession of our Christian kings. I mean the cure of that otherwise incurable disease, the King's Evil. That divers persons desperately labouring under it have been cured by the touch of the royal hand, assisted by the prayers of the priests of our Church attending, is unquestionable, unless the faith of all ancient writers and these consentient reports of hundreds of the most credible persons in our own age, attesting the same, be questioned.
And yet, they say, some of the persons return from that sovereign remedy re infecta. How comes that to pass ? God hath not given this gift of healing so absolutely to our royal line, but that He still keeps the reins of it in His own hands, to let them loose or restrain them as He pleaseth.'
In Brady's Clams Calendaria, I find :—
'Edward the Confessor was the first monarch of this country who possessed the privilege, alleged to have been continued to his successors, and to have been practised by them till the accession of the House of Brunswick, of curing that dreadful malady the King's Evil.'
In another part of the same work, from the ' Mercurius Politicus' of June 28,1660, is quoted the account of the ceremony, concluding in this manner: "His Majesty (Charles I.) stroked above 600; and such was his princely patience and tenderness to the poor afflicted creatures, that though it took up a very long time. His Majesty, who is never wearied with well-doing, was pleased to enquire whether there were any more who had not yet been touched."
My brother Charles supposes that in those times it was of great importance to keep up every ceremony which could tend to establish the divine right of the reigning family. Thus he explains the unaccountable credulity of Bishop Bull, asserting the existence of the miracle instead of adopting the line of conduct now so universally practised by the more enlightened of the Roman clergy, who walk in processions, send their mules to be blessed, nay, even crawl up the Scala Santa, professing that they do not believe in the efficacy of any of these mummeries, but are afraid of shocking the weak consciences of the ignorant by omitting them.
Upon the same principle Charles supposes that George I. was unwilling to subject his disputed title to the crown to a test so likely to fail. At the same time, I am inclined to believe that the angel of gold which the King tied round the neck of the patient must in many instances have proved a very efficacious remedy.
* The seat of William Shipley Gonway, Esq. (her nephew), near St. Asaph.