In addition to grand receptions, the Banqueting House was used for other ceremonies involving ‘ordinary’ people: Touching for the King’s Evil and the distribution of Maundy money to the poor

Touching for the King's Evil

One of the ceremonies which was most often held in the Banqueting House was the ancient custom known as 'Touching for the King's Evil', performed for those with the skin disease scrofula.
 It was believed that the touch of the royal hands could cure the ailment. James I transferred this ceremony from the Chapel Royal to the Banqueting House.

The practice gained immense popularity under Charles II when the number of candidates became so great that special certificates of application became necessary. The practice was discontinued on the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

The Royal Maundy

Another ancient rite associated with the Banqueting House since 1660 was the Maundy Thursday celebration.

The traditional washing of the feet of the poor by the sovereign and the distribution to them of bread and fish, wine, cloth and money took place on the Thursday before Good Friday. The ritual of the washing of feet was abandoned in the 18th century, although the Lord High Almoner still traditionally carries a towel over his right shoulder during the Maundy service today.

During the course of the 19th century the traditional offerings were gradually replaced with specially minted coins distributed in leather purses - the number of pence being related to the monarch's age at the time of the ceremony.

Although the ceremony ceased taking place at the Banqueting House in 1890, the present monarch continues to perform the Royal Maundy at cathedrals around the country.


Lead image of King Charles II at the Banqueting House, Whitehall.

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