“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Being Touched by a Boy King

Here is a local legend which comes from near Verwood in Dorset.  Just off of the B3081 Verwood Road, near the hamlet of Woodlands, an old hollowed-out oak tree can be found which is known locally as the Remedy Oak. This oak tree is estimated to be around 800 years old and a small metal plaque near its base bears the following cryptic inscription:

According to tradition King Edward VI sat beneath this tree and touched for King's evil.

The king in question, King Edward VI (12th October 1537 – 6th  July 1553),  is said to have stopped by this tree whilst out hunting one day in the summer of 1552. At that time most people believed that an anointed king such as Edward had special powers and could cure the sick. So a gaggle of locals appeared and asked the king to touch them to cure their ills. So touch them he did!

The phrase “King’s evil” on the plaque refers to a specific disease known as scrofula, which is a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck caused by tuberculosis. The idea that the king could cure this evil began in England with Edward the Confessor (1003/4-1066) and subsequent kings were said to have inherited his “royal touch” and his ability to cure the disease. People who had been touched by the king were often given special gold coins known as 'touch pieces' as mementos of their healing. This idea that the “royal touch” could cure scrofula is said to have continued in England until the early 1700’s, with Queen Anne being the last monarch to undertake the practice of laying hands on the sick.

Interestingly Edward VI suffered from scrofula himself and no amount of touching himself, as adolescent boys are apt to do, seems to have cured him from this disease!

The Remedy Oak - looking towards the B3081 Verwood Road.

The other side of the tree.

The small plaque at the base of the tree.

Pictures: Dorset (May 2015).

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