30th June 1837. Whipping Boys.
‘He that spareth the rod, hateth the child, but he that loveth him, chasteneth him betimes.’ Proverbs.XIII. 24.
The Romans had three grades of whips according to the nature of the crime: ferula, scutica and flagellum.
Today in 1837 an Act of Parliament ended the pillory in the Britain: public whipping had been abolished, for women 20 years earlier, men had to wait until the 1830.s.(1
Whipping was the punishment meted out to beggars who had strayed under the Tudor Poor Law when they were ‘whipped out of town’, and the Vagrancy Act of 1572 specified whipping of unlicensed vagabonds which included strolling players or actors.
Royal princes were whipped by proxy, with Barnaby Fitzpatrick, being the ‘Whipping Boy’, for any chastisement of Prince Edward (Edward VI). However Barnaby was later to prosper as the Baron of Ossory.
High Churchman, Archbishop Laud in the 1630.s used the Star Chamber in persecuting and torturing dissidents, including William Prynne, Henry Burton, John Bastwick and John Lilburne who were all sentenced to be whipped for aiding John Bastwicke’s scurrilous ‘Letany’ [Litany], printed in Holland and smuggled into the country.
Lilburne the outspoken Puritan and the founder of the Levellers also opposed Cromwell was whipped for his ‘oligarchic republicanism’, after being betrayed.
He was whipped from Fleet Prison to Westminster and also pilloried and imprisoned until he conformed, but released by the Long Parliament on a petition presented by Cromwell.
Whipping was the fate of Titus Oates who was whipped from two fixed points by the public hangman, for his perjury relating to the Popish Plot against Catholics in the time of Charles II. He was also condemned to annual pillory, but later pardoned by William III.
In 18thc Powys, Mary Luke was stripped to the waist and whipped, from 11 am and 12 am, between ‘ye east gate and west gate’, for the ‘felonious stealing a bodice’.
In the 1720.s the courts differentiated between private, and public whippings which were reserved for more serious crimes, which by An Act of 1770 saw anyone convicted of poaching between sunset and sunrise risk a public whipping on top of one year’s jail for a second offence.
Poaching, poor people wanting to feed their family, was taken very seriously, then regarded as a crime against property.
(1a) But not formally abolished until 1862. Whippings at the cart-tail, by the hangman was last used in Britain for a rioter in Glasgow on 8.5.1822.
(1b) The birch was not abolished in prisons until 1948.
Pepys records on Thursday 23rd May 1661 that Ascension Day was the time for ‘beating the bounds’ and whipping boys to impress on their minds the day and parish boundaries.
Order Book of Breconshire. 1725.
Powys Court Archives. B/QS/O/S.