Flu and Pierced Gold Coins

To modern eyes, the idea that a king or queen could, by virtue of their status, heal disease might seem extraordinary. This was exactly the premise behind the ‘royal touch’, a practice used for many centuries in Europe.

The Swine Flu pandemic in 2010 that never quite came up to expectations, was what reminded me of those pierced gold coins some of us (not me) come across in our detecting meanderings. After my last post on Crudely Holed Coins this blog discusses holed coins of a different nature.

By all means read and perhaps learn from this, but please refrain from pointing it out to Donald Chump, the self-described ‘Chosen One’. Don’t want to give him ideas! And now I make a pledge that from this day forward I will never write, repeat or otherwise dignify that orange moronic ‘leader of the free world,’ Trumplethinskin. That’s enough of that, John. Stick to the point!

The coins with holes are  known as ‘Touchpieces’, from the belief that persons of royal blood were thought to have the ‘God-given’ power of healing. So, what’s the connection with Swine Flu?

Angel of Charles I, the last minted for circulation © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The royal touch was said to cure the common disease of scrofula, a term derived from the word Latin ‘scrofa’, meaning ‘swine or breeding sow’. The malady was commonly known as the ‘King’s Evil’, a form of tuberculosis of the bones and lymph nodes.

It is known, for example, that Charles I touched around 100 people shortly after his coronation in 1630. In addition to the belief that the monarch possessed supernatural powers, it was also thought that gold held curative properties. Hence the King would use a newly minted gold coin to touch the sufferer’s afflicted part, and the the coin would thereafter be worn by the patient as an amulet around his neck – hence the hole to take the ribbon.

Charles II touching for the King’s Evil: John Browne, Adenochoiradelogia (London, 1684), title plate. Image courtesy of Wellcome Library CC 

It’s interesting to note that when the English Gold Angel made its appearance in 1470 (Henry VI), the legend on the reverse said, Per Crucem Tuam Nos Christe Redemptor, which can be translated as, By Thy Cross, Save us O Christ Our Redeemer. That suggests to me that the coin may have been intended as a healing piece from the first.

The Angel coin was favoured at these ceremonies because it has on the obverse an image of St Michael slaying the Devil who is represented by a dragon. In later years Charles II only touched the coin as he (unsurprisingly) disliked touching diseased people directly.

And that is why dear reader, when you are lucky enough to unearth your first pierced Gold Angel, you will not only know that it has been probably been handled by the monarch, but it has also been worn around the neck of a person with scrofula.

King Henry VI of France is said to have touched as many as 1500 people in one ceremony

The advice of the Health and Safety Executive would be to use a pair of latex gloves and handle with care. Only joking – I understand that you can’t catch the disease from another. Ooh. Careful. Mind how you go. Be lucky.

As an afterthought – did you know that the Angel was such an iconic coin that many pubs were named after it? Monopoly players should know that The Angel, Islington was one of those – and that the Angel tube station was named after the pub. Not a lot of people know that!

Samuel Pepys made a brief entry in his diary related to one of the touching ceremonies:

“So to my Lord’s lodgings, where Tom Guy came to me, and there staid to see the King touch people for the King’s evil. But he did not come at all, it rayned so; and the poor people were forced to stand all the rain in the garden. Afterward he touched them in the Banquetting-house.”

The TOP shows a Queen Anne Touchpiece and the other is reputed to have been owned by Dr. Samuel Johnson – presented to him by Queen Anne on 30th March 1712, at the last ever Royal Touching Ceremony held in Britain.


I thank Ray Swinnerton alerted me to this. I enjoyed it and I think you will too!

Homage to Jethro, the Cornish Ambassador who has been a comedian for over 50 years. He’s earned his ‘O.B.E.’

Jethro – Also known as GEOFFREY ROWE

13 thoughts on “Flu and Pierced Gold Coins”

  1. Thanks John
    Another well compiled article and explanation about coins with holes in them.
    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Outstanding in his field”.. Loved it John!!!!!

    And another fascinating article.. I have found a could of holed gold coins… but mine are more of a necklace or pendant type of find.

    Thank you for this.. I am so happy that you are back again


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad you liked the Outstanding in his field clip.
    Another great story about the gold holed coins. The main type I find in Australia are low value silver that have had a bullet put through it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So in 1630 you would get a holed gold coin to wear around your neck to make you feel better, and in 2020 we have a gold looking a hole that we wish had something tied around his neck?

    Funny how times change? Hahahaha…..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s an interesting analogy, John. If His Lowness was washing feet (unlikely) the gold coin (replica) would have his signature on every one.


  6. Thank you Nettie xx
    We all need a laugh in these difficult times.
    My next post is also designed to make you smile . . . little to do with hobby!
    You heard it here first!


  7. Sure was . . . I wonder if you will approve of the next blog? Sans metal detecting – almost! Thank you for the comment, Trevor.


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