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Archive for June, 2008

One of the most difficult problems faced by Medieval nobility was how to punish their children whenever they misbehaved. The young prince or dauphin couldn’t be whipped themselves, of course, such an idea was laughable, and would result in immediate imprisonment for the mere mention. No, the European royalty chose instead to pluck a peasant child at random from whatever village happened to be closest, raise him in the same castle as the noble son, and give him the special title of ‘Whipping Boy’.

When the prince did something bad, it was the Whipping Boy who received the punishment. This came in the form of thrashings; pummelings; floggings; whollopings; trouncings; and good, solid beatings with a stick. The prince would observe close at hand, usually while spread out on a couch that was draped full of satin pillows, until a full hour had passed and it was deemed that he had successfully learned his lesson. For some odd reason, it never seemed to stick.

The Whipping Boy did receive some small compensation for his repeated indignities – generally a half penny per week and dank rat-infested pit to sleep in. If he was particularly lucky, then he would get to keep his job over the years and become the “Whipping Surly Teenager”, though when the prince finally came of age his former playmate would be automatically tossed out the castle door and into an offal pit without so much as a letter of reference. And you thought your job sucked.

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