James II touchpiece

This Touch-Piece shows the “The Sovereign of the Seas” at full sail. She was launched in October 1637 and in service until burned by fire in Chatham docks in 1697. On the obverse and St Michael slaying the dragon with a lance on the reverse. Since Edward the Confessor the was a belief that the royal touch could cure the afflicted.

A touch-piece allowed the king to distribute these healing “Angel” pieces, without having to touch the sick directly. The recipient would covet such a coin and wear it against their skin probably for the rest of their life, and this is why such coins are often holed; there was even a gap left in the legend, between the FR and ET on the obverse, where the piece could be pierced.

James II was a prolific distributor of these touchpieces. It is estimated that 36,000 pieces were used in his reign at a cost of £3,000 per year.

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