Whipping boy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Edward VI and his Whipping Boy" by Walter Sydney Stacey [Wikidata] from his 1882 oil painting.[1]

A whipping boy was a boy educated alongside a prince (or boy monarch) in early modern Europe, who supposedly received corporal punishment for the prince's transgressions in his presence. The prince was not punished himself because his royal status exceeded that of his tutor; seeing a friend punished would provide an equivalent motivation not to repeat the offence. An archaic proverb which captures a similar idea is "to beat a dog before a lion."[2] Whipping was a common punishment of tutors at that time. There is little contemporary evidence for the existence of whipping boys, and evidence that some princes were indeed whipped by their tutors, although Nicholas Orme suggests that nobles might have been beaten less often than other pupils.[3] Some historians regard whipping boys as entirely mythical; others suggest they applied only in the case of a boy king, protected by divine right, and not to mere princes.[4]

In Renaissance humanism, Erasmus' treatises "The Education of a Christian Prince" (1516) and "Declamatio de pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis" (1530) mention the inappropriateness of physical chastisement of princes, but do not mention proxy punishment.[5] Hartley Coleridge wrote in 1852, "to be flogged by proxy was the exclusive privilege of royal blood. ... It was much coveted for the children of the poorer gentry, as the first step in the ladder of preferment."[6] John Gough Nichols wrote in 1857, "the whole matter is somewhat legendary, and though certain vicarious or rather minatory punishments may have been occasionally adopted, it does not seem likely that any one individual among the King's schoolfellows should have been uniformly selected, whether he were in fault or not, as the victim or scape-goat of the royal misdemeanours".[7]

In current English, a "whipping boy" is a metaphor which may have a similar meaning to scapegoat, fall guy, or sacrificial lamb; alternatively it may mean a perennial loser, a victim of group bullying or someone who is unfairly blamed for the actions of others.

Putative historical examples[edit]

Young royals alleged to have had whipping boys include:

An adult example often included in discussions of whipping boys is provided by the French Catholic prelates Arnaud d'Ossat (1537–1604) and Jacques Davy Duperron (1556–1618), who were symbolically whipped by Pope Clement VIII in 1593 in proxy expiation on behalf of Henry IV of France (1553–1610), who had renounced Protestantism.[27]

In later literature[edit]

Samuel Rowley's 1604 play When You See Me You Know Me depicts the childhood of the future Edward VI. When he skips class to play tennis, Edward "Ned" Browne is sent to the chapel to be whipped by the master of children. Cranmer says, "Since he was whipped thus for the prince's faults. / His grace hath got more knowledge in a month. / Than he attained in a year before, / For still the fearful boy, to save his breech, / Doth hourly haunt him, wheresoe'er he goes." The prince persuades king Henry VIII to knight Ned: "the poor gentleman was pitifully wounded in the back parts, as may appear by the scar, if his knightship would but untruss there". Ned hopes the tutors will refrain from whipping a knight, to which the fool retorts, "If they do, he shall make thee a lord, and then they dare not." This work may have helped the idea of a whipping boy to take root.[28]

John Donne alluded to proxy whipping in a sermon he preached in 1628: "Sometimes, when the children of great persons offend at school, another person is whipped for them, and that affects them, and works upon a good nature; but if that person should take physic for them in a sickness, it would do them no good: God's corrections upon others may work by way of example upon thee; but because thou art sick for physic, take it thyself."[29] The earliest attestation of the word "whipping boy" in the Oxford English Dictionary is from a 1647 Bible commentary by John Trapp on 1 Tim 5:20: "Those Presbyters that sin publikely ... and those who were convicted by two or three witnesses ...: Rebuke before all, yet not as if they were whipping boyes".[30]

In Book V of Gil Blas (1715) by Alain-René Lesage, when the Marquis of Leganez forbids his son's tutors from beating him, Don Raphael is flogged in his stead: "a most ingenious device, by which to keep this troublesome young lordling in awe, without trenching on his foolish father's injunctions".[31] The Fortunes of Nigel (1822) by Walter Scott describes Malagrowther, the fictional whipping boy of the young James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England): "Under the stern rule, indeed, of George Buchanan, who did not approve of the vicarious mode of punishment, James bore the penance of his own faults, and Mungo Malagrowther enjoyed a sinecure; but James's other pedagogue, Master Patrick Young, went more ceremoniously to work, and appalled the very soul of the youthful King by the floggings which he bestowed on the whipping-boy, when the royal task was not suitably performed."[32] In Mark Twain's 1881 novel, The Prince and the Pauper, the pauper's masquerade as Edward VI is aided by information from the prince's whipping boy,[33] son and namesake of the late Sir Humphrey Marlow, a "Head Lieutenant" in Henry VIII's Household.[34] Twain wrote, "James I. and Charles II. had whipping-boys, when they were little fellows, to take their punishment for them when they fell short in their lessons; so I have ventured to furnish my small prince with one, for my own purposes."[35]

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman, which won the 1987 Newbery Medal for children's books, tells of the brattish Prince Horace who learns humility on an adventure with his whipping boy, a rat-catcher named Jemmy.[36] In George R. R. Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, published from 1991, the characters Tommen Baratheon and Joffrey Baratheon have a whipping boy named Pate.[37] In David Belbin's 2002 children's novel Boy King, Barnaby FitzPatrick is whipped by John Cheke for teaching Edward VI swear-words; when Edward protests that nobody has whipping boys any more, Cheke says "the Duke of Richmond had one". Cheke relents from giving FitzPatrick the whipping owed to Edward.[38] Sarah Ruhl's 2016 play "Scenes from Court Life, or The Whipping Boy and His Prince" includes whipping boys in its depictions of Charles I and Charles II of England.[39]

Modern slavery[edit]

Some accounts of modern slavery include instances of slaves punished for the offences of a master's child. In 19th-century southern China, among slave boys as study companions to candidates for the imperial examinations, one example was noted by James L. Watson.[40] In Alex Tizon's 2017 nonfiction essay "My Family's Slave", the author's mother recounts a 1940s incident in which, caught in a lie, she made Lola, the titular servant, receive the punishment of 12 lashes of her father's belt.[41] Biram Dah Abeid has alleged that slaves in Mauritania are used as souffre douleurs or whipping boys.[42]

See also[edit]



  • Bauer, Matthias; Zirker, Angelika (2015). "Whipping Boys Explained: Literary Annotation and Digital Humanities". Literary Studies in the Digital Age. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  • Bushnell, Rebecca W. (1996). "The Sovereign Master and the Scholar Prince". A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice. Cornell University Press. pp. 23–72: 50–59. ISBN 9780801483561. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  • de Lisle, Leanda (2 November 2017). "Fake History & the Story of the Whipping Boy". The Seventeenth Century Lady. Andrea Zuvich. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  • Orme, Nicholas (29 September 2017) [1984]. From Childhood to Chivalry: The Education of the English Kings and Aristocracy 1066–1530. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781138304130. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  • Thiselton Dyer, Thomas Firminger (1903). "Royalty Whipt and Married by Proxy". Royalty in all ages; the amusements, eccentricities, accomplishments, superstitions, and frolics of the kings and queens of Europe. London: Nimmo. pp. 306–312.
  • Twain, Mark (18 August 2016) [1882]. The Prince and The Pauper. Project Gutenberg.
  • Wesselski, Albert (1928). "Der Prügelknabe". Erlesenes (in German). Prague: Gesellschaft Deutscher Bücherfreunde in Böhmen. pp. 126–128.
  • "Current Art". The Magazine of Art. 6: 133, 170–171. 1883. Retrieved 9 January 2018.


  1. ^ The magazine of art vol.6 p.133
  2. ^ Wesselski 1928, p.127 [German equivalent: "den Hund vor dem Löwen schlagen"]; Chaucer, Geoffrey (1990). Donald C. Baker (ed.). The Squire's Tale. Variorum Edition of the works of Chaucer. Vol. Part 2: The Canterbury Tales, Volume 12. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 215–216, fn. 490–91. ISBN 9780806121543. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  3. ^ Orme 2017 pp.33–35
  4. ^ Ridley, Jasper (2013-02-07). A Brief History of the Tudor Age. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 137. ISBN 9781472107954. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  5. ^ Bushnell 1996 p.50
  6. ^ Coleridge, Hartley; Coleridge, Derwent; Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1852). Lives of northern worthies. Edward Moxon. p. 172, fn. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b Nichols, John Gough (1857). "Biographical Memoir of King Edward the Sixth". Literary Remains of King Edward the Sixth: Edited from His Autograph Manuscripts, with Historical Notes and a Biographical Memoir. J. B. Nichols. pp. lxx–lxxiii. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  8. ^ Wesselski 1928 pp.126–127
  9. ^ "XLVIII: Here it is told of King Conrad, father of Conradin". Il novellino, the Hundred old tales. Broadway Translations. Translated by Storer, Edward. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. 1925. pp. 119–120.
  10. ^ d'Ancona, Alessandro (1880). Studj di critica e storia letteraria (in Italian). Bologna: N. Zanichelli. pp. 318–319.; Babrius; Phaedrus (1965). "Phaedrus No. 12: The Bullock and the Old Ox". Fables. Loeb Classical Library (in English and Latin). Vol. 436. Translated by Perry, Ben Edwin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 388–389. "Fable 50. De patre et filio. (Walter of England - Nevelet)". Aesopica (in Latin). Retrieved 16 January 2018.; McKenzie, Kenneth; Oldfather, William Abbott (1919). "67. D'un père et d'un enfant.". Ysopet-Avionnet: the Latin and French texts. Urbana: University of Illinois. pp. 10, 46, 204–205.
  11. ^ Nichols, John Gough (1855). "Biographical Memoir of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond". Inventories of the wardrobes, plate, chapel stuff, etc. of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, and of the wardrobe stuff at Baynard's Castle of Katharine, Princess Dowager. Camden Miscellany. Vol. 3. London: Camden Society. pp. xxxvii–xlv.
  12. ^ Guy, John (2013-04-25). "Ruling from the Grave". The Children of Henry VIII. OUP Oxford. p. 94. ISBN 9780191655944. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  13. ^ Heresbach, Conrad (1592). "Cap. 19. De Continentia". De Educandis Erudiendisque Principum Liberis (in Latin). Frankfurt. pp. 117–118. Retrieved 11 January 2018.; Cited and translated in Bushnell 1996 p.54
  14. ^ "Bilder aus der deutschen Vergangenheit: die Schlesier und ihr toller Herzog Heinrich. 2". Die Grenzboten: Zeitschrift für Politik, Literatur und Kunst (in German). Leipzig: Friedrich Ludwig Herbig. 15 (II Semester, IV Band): 106–121: 116. 1856. Als Knabe Page des eingesperrten Herzog Friedrich des Vaters und Prügeljunge Friedrich des Sohns, hatte er das wilde Treiben des Liegnitzer Fürstenhofs schon früh aus dem Grunde kennen gelernt und sich in alle Mysterien desselben eingelebt.
  15. ^ a b c Wesselski 1928 p.126
  16. ^ Burnet, Gilbert (1850) [1723]. Bishop Burnet's history of his own time: from the restoration of King Charles the second to the treaty of peace at Utrecht, in the reign of Queen Anne. Vol. 1 (New ed.). London: W.S. Orr. p. 39. Mr. Murray, of the bed–chamber, had been page and whipping–boy to king Charles the First; and had great credit with him, not only in procuring private favours, but in all his counsels.
  17. ^ Beddard, Robert (January 1995). "Ham House". History Today. 45 (1).
  18. ^ Pritchard, Evelyn (2007). Ham House and its owners through five centuries 1610-2006. Richmond Local History Society. ISBN 9781955071727.
  19. ^ Gordon, Peter; Lawton, Denis (2003). Royal Education: Past, Present, and Future. Psychology Press. p. 58. ISBN 9780714683867. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  20. ^ Hunneyball, Paul (2010). Thrush, Andrew; Ferris, John P. (eds.). "Murray, William (c.1600–1655), of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster and Ham, Surr". The History of Parliament. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  21. ^ Petitfils, Jean-Christian (6 November 2014). "La première formation du roi". Louis XV. edi8. p. 52. ISBN 9782262050078. Retrieved 15 January 2018.; Antoine, Michel (11 October 1989). "Caprices et chagrins". Louis XV (in French). Fayard. p. 29. ISBN 9782213647814. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  22. ^ Deffand, Marie Du (1813). "Letter 73: 2 November 1769". Lettres de la marquise du Deffand à Horace Walpole, depuis comte d'Orford, écrites dans les années 1766 à 1780; auquelles sont jointes des lettres de madame Du Deffand à Voltaire, écrites dans les années 1775: publiées d'après les originaux déposés à Strawberry-Hill (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: Treustel et Wurtz. p. 348. Retrieved 15 January 2018. c'est son hussard; je ne sais pas si vous entendez cela; le roi dans son enfance avait un petit hussard qu'on fouettait quand le roi n'avait pas bien dit sa leçon.; Maugras, Gaston (1907). Le duc de Lauzun et la cour intime de Louis XV (in French). Paris: Plon. p. 286. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  23. ^ Dulaure, Jacques-Antoine (1825). "Paris sous Louis XV". Histoire civile, physique et morale de Paris (in French). Vol. 7 (3rd ed.). Baudouin Frères. pp. 395–396, fn (1). Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  24. ^ Bapst, Germain (1909). "VI: Le Général Bugeaud et la Conquête du Dahra". Le Maréchal Canrobert, souvenirs d'un siècle. 389 (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: Plon.
  25. ^ a b Li, Wenyi (15 February 2016). "Some Explanations of the 'Haha Juse' in the Qing Dynasty". The Qing History Journal (in Chinese) (1): 48–62. ISSN 1002-8587.
  26. ^ Translations of the "Peking Gazette" 1876, reprinted from the "North China Herald". April 1877. p. 4.
  27. ^ Mentioned in: Thiselton Dyer 1903 p.307; Butler, Samuel; Grey, Zachary (1819). Hudibras. Vol. 1. London: Charles & Henry Baldwyn. p. 120, fn 2.; The magazine of art vol.6 pp.170–171; Brewer, E. Cobham (1898). Whipping Boy. Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  28. ^ Rowley, Samuel (1874). Elze, Karl (ed.). When you see me, you know me. A chronicle-history. Dessau: E. Barth. pp. 46–50.; Mark H., Lawhorn (2002). "Taking Pains for the Prince: age, Patronage, and Penal Surrogacy in Samuel Rowley's When You See Me, You Know Me". In Eisenbichler, Konrad (ed.). The Premodern Teenager: Youth in Society, 1150-1650. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, Victoria University. pp. 131–150. ISBN 9780772720184. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  29. ^ Donne, John (November 2013). "Commentaries: Sermon 7". In Colclough, David (ed.). The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne. Vol. 3: Sermons Preached at the Court of Charles I. Oxford: OUP. p. 367, lines 802–4. ISBN 9780199565481. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  30. ^ "sv whipping-boy". A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. Vol. X pt.II. Oxford Clarendon Press. 17 May 1923. Wh–Worling p.57 col.3. Retrieved 12 January 2018.; the 1647 citation is reprinted in Trapp, John (1656). "1 Timothy". A Commentary Or Exposition Upon All the Books of the New Testament. London: R.W. for Nath. Ekins. p. 836. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  31. ^ Lesage, Alain-René (1913) [1748]. "Book V; Chapter I: History of Don Raphael". In Fullerton, William Morton (ed.). Gil Blas. Translated by Smollett, Tobias. George Routledge & Sons. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  32. ^ Scott, Walter (25 July 2014) [1822]. "Chapter VI". The Fortunes of Nigel. Project Gutenberg.
  33. ^ Bauer & Zirker 2015, ¶41; Twain 2016 Ch.XIV: 'Le Roi est mort'—'vive le Roi.'
  34. ^ Bauer & Zirker 2015, ¶41; Twain 2016,
    • Ch.XXIX: To London "'good old Sir Humphrey, Head Lieutenant of the late King’s kitchen, or stables, or something'—Miles could not remember just what or which..."
    • Ch.XXXIII: Edward as King.
      "Know you Sir Humphrey Marlow?"
      The boy started, and said to himself, "Lord! mine old departed father!"
  35. ^ Bauer & Zirker 2015, ¶41; Twain 2016, Notes: No.8
  36. ^ Fleischman, Sid (1986). The Whipping Boy. Green Willow Books. ISBN 0688062164.
  37. ^ Martin, George R. R. (2005). A Feast for Crows. United States: Bantam Spectra. pp. 344–363. ISBN 055358202X.
  38. ^ Belbin, David (1 October 2013). "Whipping Boy". Boy King. Bloomsbury. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9781472904218. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  39. ^ "Theater: Scenes from Court Life or the whipping boy and his prince By Sarah Ruhl". Calendar. Yale College. 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  40. ^ Watson, James L. (1980). "Transactions in people: the Chinese market in slaves, servants, and heirs". Asian and African systems of slavery. University of California Press. pp. 223–250: 237–238. ISBN 9780520040311. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  41. ^ Tizon, Alex (June 2017). "My Family's Slave". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Retrieved 16 April 2019. One day during the war Lieutenant Tom came home and caught my mother in a lie—something to do with a boy she wasn't supposed to talk to. Tom, furious, ordered her to "stand at the table." Mom cowered with Lola in a corner. Then, in a quivering voice, she told her father that Lola would take her punishment. Lola looked at Mom pleadingly, then without a word walked to the dining table and held on to the edge. Tom raised the belt and delivered 12 lashes, punctuating each one with a word. You. Do. Not. Lie. To. Me. You. Do. Not. Lie. To. Me. Lola made no sound.
  42. ^ "Biram Dah Abeid – prix des Droits Humains de l'ONU" (in French). Biram Dah Abeid. Retrieved 16 April 2019.

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