Since the Middle Ages, English monarchs had claimed to have the power to heal, or at least prevent, ‘the King’s Evil’. It’s not clear exactly what this nasty skin disorder was, possibly leprosy, or scrofula, which causes large growths on face and neck. It became known as ‘the Kings Evil’, alluding to the belief that sufferers would be cured by the touch of the monarch.
James I decided to use his fabulous new Banqueting House to stage this mystical ritual of monarchy, which was continued by Charles I. Revived by his son Charles II in 1661, the ritual became wildly popular.