Sunday, May 31, 2009

Question from Jem - Whipping boys and girls

I heard Edward had a whipping boy. So did Mary adn Elizabeth have whipping girls?


PhD Historian said...

The "whipping boy" story is a myth. It is not true.

Haven said...

What's a whipping boy?

PhD Historian said...

Someone who received the punishment, especially corporal punishments such as whipping or lashing, otherwise due to a person of exceptionally high status. Because the person of status was in theory protected from being punished by his social inferiors (i.e., those of lower rank or title), a "whipping boy" was employed in his place. The person to whom the punishment should have gone was expected to empathize with the actual recipient and to amend his conduct accordingly.

King James I's second son, later King Charles I, had a "whipping boy" during his childhood. Prince Edward did not, or at least none is recorded or known to history, and Edward makes no mention of one in his own diary.

The notion that Prince Edward had a "whipping boy" was popularized in the nineteenth century by writers of "historical tales for children," a genre of inspirational and conduct literature intended to teach children how to behave through the telling of fictional stories based loosely on "heroes" of the English past. Mark Twain famously deleted a "whipping boy" from the original edition of his book The Prince and the Pauper, but later published a short story based on the idea. Twain himself said, "I take it from the twenty-second chapter of a tale for boys which I have been engaged upon .... James I and Charles II had 'whipping boys' when they were little fellows, ... so I have ventured to furnish my small prince with one, for my own purposes."

James I may indeed have had a "whipping boy," because he was the crowned king of Scotland from infancy. It would have been unthinkable for anyone to physically punish the king, especially by whipping. Yet whipping was the principal method of punishment advocated in the sixteenth century by virtually all "authorities" on childrearing. James no doubt followed the pattern in establishing a "whipping boy" for his own son, and Charles I may have done the same in relation to his sons, in turn. However, the pattern was apparently unique to the early Stuarts and was not practiced by the Tudors.

Leanda de Lisle said...

The story about Edward's whipping boy appears in Fuller (17th century) and I think the whipping boy is a 17th century fiction inspired by theories of divine right kingship. James I was beaten as a boy, the story of him employing a whipping boy for Charles comes from Burnet History of My Own Times (late 17th century). Charles I contemporary Louis XIII was beaten after he became king aged eight,