Monarchy and Magic

King James I, 1616

Daemonolgie written by witch-mad King James, 1599. (King James I, 1616)

Not all magicians needed secrecy. For example Christian monarchs magically cured their subjects of scrofula (a skin disease) en masse at large public ceremonies. Such displays were intended to emphasise the legitimacy of the monarch, enhance the mystery of the monarchy  and discourage coups by mere mortals. The Jacobite Pretenders to the throne publicised their power to heal in order to legitimise their claims to the throne, and French monarchs continued to claim magical healing powers all the way to the guillotine.

King James  had a personal interest in magic. Before his accession to the English throne, he had been involved in the first major witchcraft trial in Scotland, an experience that inspired him to write Daemonologie, a work that may have provided background material for Shakespeare's Tragedy of Macbeth. James is known to have supervised personally the torture of women accused of being witches and his enthusiasm was responsible at least in part for the relentless persecution of witches in England. (Wales was largely spared the witch-hunt hysteria that plagued other nations.) 

Cornwall, 1844

Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Illustrated by local-lad Joseph Kenny Meadows. (Cornwall, 1844)

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