Thursday, June 08, 2006

Scrofulee, scrofula

It was once believed that the touch of the King (or Queen) could cure scrofula. Scrofula (which I had always assumed to be vaguely venereal) is a disfiguring form of tuberculosis that affects the lymph nodes of the neck, leading to unsightly swellings. King George I put an end to the practice as "too catholic".

Now, whatever your issues with the Church of Rome, "too catholic" (or "zu katholisch" - he didn't speak English) hardly sounds like a scientifically rigorous reason for discarding the practice without some kind of test. I'll bet good money, at least a fiver, that no one has ever conducted a double blind medical trial on the subject. For all we know, it still works. With the NHS in the state it is, and TB figures slightly on the rise, I say that if we have this useful resource then it badly needs to be researched.
  • Does it only apply to the reigning sovereign, or to anyone in the line of succession too?
  • Do other members of the family have it in diluted form - for instance, could the touch of three or four lesser royals be the same as one touch by Her Majesty?
  • Does it immunise in advance, or do you have to have the disease to be cured of it?
  • Can it also be passed on by waving, or is physical contact the key thing?
  • Will Charles get the power the moment his mother dies, or will he need to be formally crowned? (Now, there's a man who will appreciate the non-traditional approach to disease management.)
  • Could Charles act preventatively by touching people now, but the cure only takes effect when he becomes king?
  • What is the active agent in the process? Is it the Queen's DNA? Pheromones? Is it something that could be isolated and mass produced in a lab? Could it be transmitted more efficiently by tablets, injections or sprays?
I'm sending in my grant application now.


  1. Ben, I think you're getting up too early.

  2. It's when I have my best thoughts ...

  3. "Is it the Queen's DNA? Pheromones? Is it something that could be isolated and mass produced in a lab?"

    Hum, well it would doubt that. Pheromones or any other physical feature would be cause by the DNA. However this would not be affected by parents dying ect.

    Therefore it must be something external, specifically associated with the monarchy. It could be a micro organism that lives in the place, on the royal jewels or something (the crown would work because it is first worn when corinated, I presume) that is picked up and lives on the reigning monarch. This micro organism could produce a antibiotic (similar to penicillin) which kills the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria causing the disease.

    If that was the case then this new antibiotic could certainly be isolated.

  4. You may be onto something there, Simon. You submit the research grant asking if you can cut bits off the crown jewels for analysis, I'll concentrate on the blood samples. We can publish together.

    I bet no one's studied the corgis' role in all this either.


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