Friday, August 24, 2007

King's Evil

KING'S EVIL, n. A malady that was formerly cured by the touch of the sovereign, but has now to be treated by the physicians. Thus "the most pious Edward" of England used to lay his royal hand upon the ailing subjects and make them whole —

a crowd of wretched souls
That stay his cure: their malady convinces
The great essay of art; but at his touch,
Such sanctity hath Heaven given his hand,
They presently amend,

as the "Doctor" in Macbeth hath it. This useful property of the royal hand could, it appears, be transmitted along with other crown properties; for according to "Malcolm,"

'tis spoken
To the succeeding royalty he leaves
The healing benediction.

But the gift somewhere dropped out of the line of succession: the later sovereigns of England have not been tactual healers, and the disease once honored with the name "king's evil" now bears the humbler one of "scrofula," from scrofa, a sow. The date and author of the following epigram are known only to the author of this dictionary, but it is old enough to show that the jest about Scotland's national disorder is not a thing of yesterday.

Ye Kynge his evill in me laye,
Wh. he of Scottlande charmed awaye.
He layde his hand on mine and sayd:
"Be gone!" Ye ill no longer stayd.
But O ye wofull plyght in wh.
I'm now y-pight: I have ye itche!

The superstition that maladies can be cured by royal taction is dead, but like many a departed conviction it has left a monument of custom to keep its memory green. The practice of forming a line and shaking the President's hand had no other origin, and when that great dignitary bestows his healing salutation on

strangely visited people,
All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
The mere despair of surgery,

he and his patients are handing along an extinguished torch which once was kindled at the altar-fire of a faith long held by all classes of men. It is a beautiful and edifying "survival" — one which brings the sainted past close home in our "business and bosoms."

2007 Update:  An illness the remedy of which was the touch of the sovereign, which is now known to be the bacillus of poverty and sloth.


Rose Dewy Knickers said...

Hi Doug,

Rather dark this week. *shudders*

King's Evil: Those dastardly creatures known as The Lakers.



*lyypes* Botox

puppybrose said...

yeesh, could Bierce been any more long-winded with a definition? oy. that said, ewwww, King's evil is disgusting, at best.

sorry, nothing particularly witty is popping into my fragile little mind, at the moment. a pox on you for offering up such a darkly disturbing term, Curmudgeon. a term, i hasten to add, i'd never heard of, before today. ; )

Sar said...

King's Evil...hmmm, sounds like an oxymoron to me.

Sar said...

...with "oxymoron" being my sarcastically generous contribution and "redundant" being my alternative contribution.

Yes Regismudgeon, that's my final answer.

The Old Mule said...

kings evil: the decider.

The Old Mule said...


pia said...

After reading through all that I will settle for your answer or
Kings Evil: a gate in London behind which an executioner await

Doug said...

Hey there, Rose Dewey. Great to see you back but, um, the Lakers? Evil? I mean, other than Kobe who's on the fence. Those are my boys.

Neva, can you tell we're at the end of a letter? It was this or KINE.

Regismudgeon is King of Krabs, Sar? If there were such a thing as President's evil you'd have been all over it, I think.

Haha, Mule. The decipher?

Pia, you owed me a long post, I think. Nice rhyme.

Jim said...

King's Evil: I will research this a little more, we are going to be in Scotland from September 12 through the 25th.

King's Evil: Evil Knievel, almost, but twisted around. He'd have saved a lot if he could have healed himself.

TLP said...

Elvis is evil? Huh!

Anonymous said...

King's evil, n. an illness which seems to result in sudden memory loss in those called to testify in front of any House or Senate subcommittee. Symptoms include mumbling, dissembling, and repetitive use of the phrase "I have no recollection, Senator"

Logophile said...


Divine right side effect?

I've nothing to offer, oh well.
have a good weekend, Doug. make sure you let Walela lay a paw on you.

goldennib said...

Do you think that is what Monica had in mind with Bill? Or was it the other way round?

Doug said...

Jim, enjoy your trip. If you get an itch you might want to scratch it yourself.

TLP, he must be. How do you live forever without making a bad bargain?

Anonymous, you mean gonzalitis?

Logo, I think we're all thrashing around today. I will let the queen cure me, thanks.

Doug said...

Nessa, I just hope it worked.

Minka said...

For a second there I was wondering who's Bill :) Until I realized tehre are more Monikas in the world.

King's evil: Queen

Minka said...

Scrofula, remind sme of Dracula in a scarf and I don't know why...just thought I'd point that out!

puppybrose said...

hahaha, Minka! i'm laughing, because when i first saw the word scrofula, i thought it sounded like a funky STD specific to a guy's, um, "sacular" area (yes, that's a made up word, but only because i thought it would seem more polite than making a joke about pimply scrotums... 'cuz ewww) ; )

Mutha said...

I shook Bill Clinton's hand when he was running for president the first, I guess he didn't have the touch yet. He was a perfect gentleman -- I was less so and screamed "DO IT BILL!!!" in his face.

Jamie Dawn said...

I assume the King's mistresses were all in fine health.

cooper said...

Yea, Kings were better in the old days.

I'm still stuck on Krishna.

mireille said...

Um, don't know about the sovereign part, but I have proven ability to cure ye itche HAHAHAHAHAHA! xoxo

quilly said...

King's Evil: taxation without representation.

the amoeba said...

No, Quilly, that's Evil Kings.

The touch of the sovereign was indeed the cure for many evils. Especially in Britain, where the sovereigns were (and, I read, still are) of gold.

Sadly, whereas in olden days, the afflicted received the sovereign's touch, nowadays the afflicted give it. In wheelbarrows full ...

quilly said...

King's Evil: Prince Not Charming. Long live King Georgebush II, the original Prince ...

G said...

Dude, could you have come up with more of a buzzkill?

King's evil: my sunburn. Ouch. Who knew sun could blaze through such clouds? Don't answer that.

Doug said...

Minka, "Queen" is the right answer, probably.

Neva, listen to your heart.

Mutha, I'm guessing you caught him on a bad day.

Jamie Dawn, all but Edward The Confessor's.

Cooper, Hare Charles just doesn't have the right ring, does it?

Mireille, you know the secret of the scrofula?

Patriotic, Quill. Tea?

Amoeba, now you're poor and overtaxed?

Quilly, formerly known as prince.

Uh, G. OK.