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Whipping As A Punishment - Part One

So easy was a whipping to administer, and so obvious the deterrent it was thought to be, it became the punishment most common throughout the world. On 1530 the Whipping Act ordered delinquents ‘to be tied to the end of a cart, naked, and beaten with whips through a market town till the body be bloody by reason of such whipping’. It was not until the reign of Elizabeth I, in 1597, that culprits were only required to be naked from the waist up. From that time also, the whipping post came into being, for the majority of cases, instead the back of a moving cart. Doubtful the victim benefited other than a stationary target was easier to hit than a moving one.

This punishment was not just for those who committed a crime. Mothers of illegitimate children were punished in this way in the 16th century as were the reputed fathers. Deranged people were whipped for being deranged, ill people for being ill. Blasphemers and drunkards were also constant targets usually with a Whip of Nine Knotted Cords.

Mary Hamilton, alias George Hamilton, alias William Hamilton, who in the guise of a man, married no fewer than fourteen women. Her last wife totally unsuspected until she ‘compared certain circumstances’ with her neighbours Mr and Mrs Goody, then realised her spouse had indulged in ‘vile and deceitful practices. The sentence of the court was a follows: ‘That he, she, prisoner at the bar, is a uncommon notorious cheat; and we, the Court, do sentence her or him, whichever he or she may be, to be imprisoned for six months, and during that time to be whipped in the towns of Taunton, Glastonbury, Wells and Shipton Mallet, and to find security for good behaviour as long as they, the learned judges aforesaid, shall or may, in their wisdom and judgment require.’ Accordingly Mary Hamilton was imprisoned and whipped in the bitterly cold winter of 1746.

Whipping of girl

Because of the supposed value of the punishment as a deterrent, most whippings were a public spectacle and large crowds gathered around the hangman’s cart or whipping post. Often the offender was not only whipped in the market place but also flogged out of the town. In London there was much more ‘entertainment’ of this type, especially for fashionable city gentlemen who, as a change from riding in Rotten Row or gossiping in the coffee houses could stroll elegantly along to Blackfriars and into the Bridewell Prison on Wednesdays, there to watch the women convicts being whipped before the Board of Governors. There President of the Court sat with a wooden hammer in his hand, while the prisoner stripped to the waist was tied to the post. The whipping continued until thought sufficient by the President, and he would then bring down the hammer. This pleasure was denied to the London dandies when in 1791, the whipping of female vagrants was declared illegal, all women being spared the lash by the passing of the Whipping of Female Offenders Abolition Act in 1820. The last man being whipped, at the cart tail, at Glasgow on 8th May, 1822, shortly after all public flogging were abolished.

Punishment

However even into the 1930s punishment by the whip continued to be administered in English prisons. The whip used was a cat-o’-nine-tails, which consisted of a wooden handle nearly twenty inches long, with nine tails of whipcord, each about an eight of an inch thick, thirty three inches long, but free from knots. The ends of the cords were bound with silk thread to prevent fraying. The convict was tied with outstretched arms to a triangular frame, so that he could neither move nor see what was happening. Protective pads were fixed over his kidneys and neck to prevent serious injury, and he was previously examined by a prison doctor to ensure he was fit enough to endure the whipping. The cat was wielded by a turnkey, a warder, using both hands, the tails being shaken out after each blow and the number of the stroke called out as he did so. A report covering the years 1931-5 found, blood did not flow during the whipping, probably due to the tails not being knotted, that the convicts seldom lost consciousness and rarely was there need for prolonged hospitalization. Wandsworth prison had a whipping post, a ten foot high rectangular frame fitted with straps which buckled around wrists, waist and ankles of juvenile offenders who were then beaten with a birch rod to which a bunch of long birch twigs was attached. The considered to injurious for these youthful offenders.

Punishment of girl

The Duke of Wellington remarked of his men, “They are the scum of the earth – I have no idea of any great effect produced on British soldiers by anything but the fear of immediate corporal punishment”. Flogging having been authorised by the Mutiny Act of 1689, punishments of a thousand lashes or more were commonplace under his command. The range of punishments available to members of courts martial were harsh in the extreme. Deserting during action 900 lashes, deserting when on guard duty 1500 lashes, deserting a second time 900 lashes and transportation as a felon for life, and even deserting and enlisting in another regiment bought a penalty of 800 lashes and a branding with the letter ‘D’. It has to be remembered that each tail of an army cat-o’-nine-tail had three knots in it, a thousand lashes therefore meant that the offender had to endure the impact if 27,000 knots cutting into his back. This was added to by the practise of some regiments of not cleaning the cat after it had been used, the dried blood stiffening the tails. Other regiments soaked their cats in brine, and dipped them in salt and water during the punishment.

At the completion of the flogging the soldier was taken to the sickbay, there to have his mutilated back covered with cloths wetted with a dilute solution of sugar of lead. These were held in place by a wide bandage known as a ‘saddle’ or a ‘wrestling jacket’. Flogging was gradually phased out however as late as 1881 floggings were still administered in military prisons and the 1914 Army Regulations still permitted provost marshals to apply up to thirty strokes for certain offences.

Whip

The weapon used in Naval whipping comprised five feet of rope, the thickness of a man’s wrist, three feet of which formed the handle, the remaining strands were twisted into thongs and knotted along their length, a ‘rope’s end’ was capable of inflicting extreme pain and often injury. The Sergeant of Marines also wielded the cat-o’-nine-tails, timing his blows every quarter minute with the aid of a sand glass. After every twelve lashes another NCO took over, until the required total had been delivered.

The most feared naval punishment being ‘Flogging round the Fleet’, whereby all ships in port took part in a bizarre ritual. The offender was stripped to the waist and secured to a wooden frame in a launch, accompanied by the Master-at-Arms with sword drawn, the Surgeon’s mate, a drummer and a fifer. A small floating procession set out, with a despatch boat in the lead to announce the approach of the offender, the boat with the offender and a third boat following carrying a Lieutenant and the Surgeon. On arrival alongside one of the ships, the sentence was proclaimed to the ship’s company lined up to witness and the two Bosun’s Mates from that ship were rowed out to the launch. They delivered the number of lashes apportioned to them, the total number of lashes having been divided by the number of ships anchored. After each beating the small flotilla moved on to the next ship and the procedure was repeated, ‘Flogging around the Fleet’ therefore taking several hours to complete. By 1881 flogging could only be awarded with Admiralty concurrence, but it was not until 1949 that all corporal punishment was finally and officially abolished. Caning of boy seamen was however retained.

Whipping in XX century

Whipping Gallery 1

Modern lesbian whipping

Whipping Gallery 2

Modern punishment

Whipping Gallery 3

The most horrific implement of punishment would have had to the Battoir used during a period of intense religious conflict in France during 1818, where Protestants suffered appalling maltreatment at the hands of the more numerous Catholics. This household implement, part of every French woman’s laundry equipment, was used by her to beat sodden clothes when washing the family linen. This simple paddle had nails driven into the wood of the Battoirs in the form of fleur-de-lys and was used by the Catholics on the Protestant wives and daughters. Their petticoats were pulled over their heads and fastened, exposing them naked and they were beaten until the blood streamed from their bodies. To carry out these outrages to the highest possible degree not even pregnant women were spared. The Battoir was never a judicial instrument, the official instrument being the whip which was abolished in 1789 but used by the French Navy until 1848 however its use was still made of in the prison hulks after that date.
Whipping As A Punishment – Part Two >



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