Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Moments in C.P. History. Numbers IV-VI

Moments in C.P. History
A Series by Paul Melrose

Number 4. Rose Keller

A woman stood outside the Church of the Little Fathers in the Place des Victoires in Paris begging for alms. Her name was Rose Keller and she had done this every day since losing her job as a cotton spinner. She had been a respectable married woman from Strasbourg but the premature death of her husband and the loss of her job had reduced the thirty six year old Rose to a life of begging of which she was ashamed. In the Paris of 1768, however, there were few choices for working women thrown into penury and Rose had taken the one she believed to be the least dishonourable... the other choice being one such a modest woman would not contemplate. Who knows how long Rose would have continued this sad ritual until disease and ultimately death from cold and exposure would claim her... but it was not to be, for one fateful day, events occurred which would have significant consequences for both Rose and for another.

The day was Easter Sunday, April 3rd 1768 and the man who approached the wretched woman begging for alms was named Donatien Alphonse Francois, the Marquis de Sade. He watched for a few moments as passers by thrust their small change into her grateful hand and then offered her two livres, a substantial sum, if she would follow him to his country cottage. Rose Keller was no fool and immediately sensed what she might have to do for such a considerable sum. Indignantly she protested that though she may have been reduced to begging she was 'not THAT sort of woman' and initially refused Sade's invitation.

Sade glibly informed Rose that, temporary resident in Paris as he was, he needed a housekeeper and this was a way to help her out of her difficulties. She was persuaded that the job carried a guarantee of plentiful food and shelter and this seductive promise convinced her to accept, a welcome relief from the desperate circumstances in which she had been living. De Sade's coach took them both to his cottage at Arcueil, just outside Paris, where the smooth convincing nobleman showed his guest to her new bedchamber and promised her some food and drink. Rose was overwhelmed by her new surroundings, hardly able to believe her good fortune, when Sade returned and invited her down to the breakfast room.

Once inside, Sade locked the door and ordered Rose to take off all her clothes. Genuinely shocked, Rose angrily refused declaring that she had been tricked and had explained that she was not a prostitute. Sade told her brusquely that unless she did as he ordered he would kill her and bury her in the garden. Terrified, Rose began to undress but, being a modest woman, refused to remove her chemise. The enraged Sade tore off the chemise then pushed the terrified naked woman face down onto his bed and began to whip her back and buttocks with, alternately, a bundle of canes and a cat o' nine tails.

During the whipping, as Rose was later to testify, Sade poured what felt like molten wax into her weals. The louder Rose screamed the harder Sade whipped until eventually she heard the Marquis shudder and groan, a sign that he had reached orgasm, and only then did her whipping cease.

Sade then locked Rose Keller in the bedroom after telling her he would take her back to Paris that evening but the shocked and terrified woman still feared that she might be murdered.

Left alone, Rose tore the sheet into strips and knotted the strands, escaping through the bedroom window. The woman then ran down the village street despite being spotted by Sade's valet who ran after her and offered a purseful of money for her silence. Hysterical and afraid, Rose brushed him aside and kept running until she reached the village where three women took her in hand, ultimately taking her to the home of the Chief Bailiff and to a police officer, where she repeated her story. The Bailiff's wife, a Mme Lambert, heard the story and examined Rose Keller's wounds, an experience which upset her so much she burst into tears and retired to her room.

The next day, Easter Monday, the charge was heard by a judge and it became apparent that Rose Keller was a very reliable witness. Sade's family was now certain that the Marquis was in serious trouble. A deputation was dispatched to see Rose, who was still recovering at the home of the town bailiff, and they were shocked to find that this 'simple' beggar woman had a sound financial head on her shoulders despite the ordeal. She demanded 3000 livres, the equivalent of about £9000, in order to drop any charges. The Sade family were stunned by the demand but eventually Rose Keller settled on 2600 livres, a truly sizeable sum.

Rose Keller's life changed for the better overnight as a result. A nightmare encounter which she feared might result in her death had in fact provided her with riches beyond her dreams, a chance of a new life and the opportunity to meet and marry a new husband, thus fate can deal a strange hand. For the Marquis, who appeared to have got away with it, this incident allied to others provided his enemies, primarily his mother in law, with the opportunity to convince the King that Sade should be put away for good. Ever the hedonistic libertine, Sade managed to commit more outrages on the moral senses of his neighbours, including a weekend long orgy involving sexual and flagellant activity with a number of very young girls before his eventual capture. Finally, after protracted attempts to fend off the inevitable, Sade was arrested and sent away to prison where he would spend most of his life until released by the forces of the Revolution, an old and sick man. During his long incarceration, Sade wrote some of the most controversial works of literature, the content of which is now being reevaluated by literary critics as something deeper than merely hideous and cruel pornography, a label with which it was once dismissed.

Number 5. Boadicea

The humiliating flogging of the Druid Queen Boadicea, certainly the earliest example in this series, was truly a defining moment in the history of corporal punishment and prompted a violent and unexpected backlash which took the occupying Roman army by surprise and forced it into a terrible and bloody conflict.

Boadicea was the wife of Prasutagus, Druid King of the Iceni, a tribe whose lands spanned the modern counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. Prasutagus ruled his people through a long period of Roman occupation and, politically astute, had allied himself with his Roman conquerors in order to guarantee a peaceful life for his people. The Romans were prepared to allow this arrangement, like most occupying armies, on the basis of mutual benefit. However by the year AD60, Roman patience with the ancient Britons was running very low and anger had replaced tolerance, particularly following an attempt to subdue the ancient Isle of Mona, long a refuge for Druids and discontented Britons who wished to escape the Roman yoke. Although the Romans eventually triumphed on Mona they had at first to suffer the humiliation of a retreat under the onslaught of more than 2000 virtually naked Druid women and priests, their hair wild, eyes wide and screaming abuse as they charged the Roman ranks armed only with fiery torches. The terrified Roman soldiers broke ranks and backed off to a safe hillside fort only to be galvanised by the anger and contempt of their officers for an army which had allowed a group of women to intimidate them. They regrouped, advanced and took a fearful bloody revenge, killing virtually every man, woman and child in the community.

The atmosphere in the rest of Britain was close to boiling point with anti Roman revolt simmering everywhere. Prasutagus, by now ailing, was aware of the danger to himself and his family of the highly volatile climate. He sought to protect his wife and daughters from harm by making a will which gave his master, the Roman Emperor Nero, a third share in his property and lands on his death. Duly in AD61 Prasutagus died in the misguided belief that his wisdom had ensured a safe outcome for his family.

Unfortunately, when the terms of Prasutagus' will were made known to Paulinus Suetonius, Nero's British Consul, he was roused to irrational anger that this Druid underling should have the temerity to decide exactly what the Emperor was entitled to receive. Telling his commanders that these Iceni needed a lesson in humility, he told them to take whatever steps were needed to achieve just that. The result was swift and shocking for within days of the decree a Roman force, including some slaves, was despatched to Prasutagus' palace where they forced an entry and the slaves began to ransack the palace of all valuables.

Boadicea, then aged around 45, and her two daughters, possibly in their twenties, were then dragged out of the palace by the Roman soldiers into the grounds where the shocked Boadicea was forced to watch while the two girls were stripped and raped by the Roman soldiers who then handed them over to the slaves for further violation. Boadicea herself was taken to Winchester where she was put on a platform in front of the Roman troops and many of her Iceni subjects, tied to a whipping post then stripped naked and flogged severely with a whip until blood was drawn.

Before this moment, Boadicea had been a quiet and dutiful Queen but these events were to scar her mind and from that moment she lived only for vengeance. With powerful and emotional speeches, Boadicea and her daughters travelled their tribal lands inciting the Iceni to rise up against their cruel masters, a plea which needed little urging and soon the Iceni were joined by other neighbouring tribes sick of the Roman yoke. Because Britain had been relatively quiet compared to problems elsewhere in the Empire, there were only four Roman legions, approximately 20,000 men, in the whole island. Two of these were in Wales, one in Lincoln and the other in Gloucester as the furious Britons marched on Colchester, the centre of Roman culture and religion, defended only by a handful of town militia.

The inhabitants hadn't a chance. Everything Roman that stood was burned to the ground and everything Roman that lived was murdered. The temple was destroyed and the town burned to a cinder. Part of the Roman legion at Lincoln was despatched in haste to the scene but, to their horror, found a tribal force twelve times their size. By sheer weight of numbers the Britons slaughtered every one of the Roman infantry, the commander escaping along with some of the cavalry, on horseback.

Suetonius, whose humiliating treatment of Boadicea had begun this reaction, was horrified and went with a small force to London expecting to be reinforced but his Legion commander refused to commit his troops and Suetonius decided he must leave the Londoners to their fate. The Britons fell upon the town killing every man, woman and child who stood in their way including those Britons who had given aid to their Roman masters. After that Boadicea's army turned on St Albans with similar results, the death toll in the three cities exceeding 70,000.

In the face of such military might as the Romans possessed, it was inevitable that these successes would be short lived and, within weeks, Suetonius was reinforced and now had two legions totalling ten thousand men at his command. Still they were outnumbered 8 to 1 by the Britons, but the Romans' military skill had led them to choose a battlefield which suited their strategy. With consummate nerve they awaited the onslaught of the populous but indisciplined Britons, Boadicea and her daughters riding through the British ranks in a chariot exhorting their troops to victory. It was not to be, for the tactical skill of the Romans overcame the weight of numbers and at least 80,000 Britons including many women were massacred without mercy, the Romans losing only 400 men. The battle was one of the earliest recorded examples of deliberate terror tactics being used, the Romans mutilating the bodies of the dead Britons, men and women, and hanging them up for all to see.

Boadicea herself, seeing defeat inevitable, took poison and died on the battlefield, while her daughters were captured and sent into slavery. The price Britain paid for the revolt was massive, Nero sending forty thousand more troops from Germany to keep the province under control, which they did with dreadful violence. Thus, finally, Suetonius prevailed but at what an appalling cost. One wonders if he ever reflected on his original decision which had sparked all this and decided 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scourged!'

Number 6. Lady Sophia Lindsay

In 1660, after a bitter Civil War and many years of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate, England was restored to a monarchy with the triumphant return of Charles II as King. For many, their delight at seeing the restoration of the monarchy was soon tempered by the degree of retribution exercised by the new King for past crimes against his father and his own followers under the Cromwellian regime.

Before his return from exile, the new King had promised that all religious opinions throughout the lands of England and Scotland would he respected, yet soon signed a series of Acts of Parliament which outlawed any religious gatherings except those which pursued the authorised Prayer Book. Dungeons in England and Scotland were soon overflowing, a prime target for the new King being the rebellious Presbyterian Scots whose religious dissent was put down with ruthless ferocity.

The King's brother James, Duke of York, became extremely powerful and, in many parts, feared, because as well as being a man of ruthless ambition he was a Catholic and therefore distrusted by the new restored Anglican Parliament. After some years as a kind of roving ambassador for Charles II, James was given a Scottish estate and appointed his brother's unofficial representative for Scotland, which gave him sweeping powers of attorney. The Scots were suffering great hardship and torment in defence of their religious beliefs and rose up in revolt, eventually being routed at Bothwell Bridge by an army led by the Duke of Monmouth. The Duke of York now increased his campaign against Scottish dissenters but, with breathtaking hypocrisy, secured his brother's permission to institute a Scottish Protestant Parliament dedicated to preventing a 'return to popery' while ensuring that he, a Catholic, would remain all powerful in Scotland.

The new Scottish Parliament instituted an oath which was confusing in the extreme but which intended to ensure that every sitting Member pledged allegiance to the organised Protestant faith. One of those members was the Earl of Argyll who was a Presbyterian and took the opportunity of such confusion to announce that he saw nothing in the oath which would prevent him from favouring changes to the law regarding Church and State while still remaining loyal to the Crown. In such a climate, these words were as a red rag to a bull and Argyll was arrested and charged with high treason. The Earl was tried by a jury of which the Marquis of Montrose (a Charles Stuart loyalist) was foreman, found guilty and sentenced to hang.

The news was received with horror by Argyll's family and it was resolved that something daring needed to be done to avert this fate. One of the visitors allowed the Earl during his incarceration was his beautiful daughter, Lady Sophia Lindsay, the wife of Alexander Lindsay, Earl of Buccleugh. Lindsay himself was known to be a 'soft' Anglican thus trusted by the King's representatives but who allowed his wife her Presbyterian views just so long as they were not publicly expressed. A very daring plan was hatched within the Earl's family, apparently unknown to Alexander Lindsay, whereby Lady Sophia would visit her father accompanied by maidservants and pages. Because of her position, the family gambled that no obstacle would be placed in the path of such a visitation. They took extra clothing with them and, after distracting the guard for some minutes, they made up the Earl's bed with blankets to make it appear that he was sleeping then the Earl of Argyll escaped, dressed as a page, as part of his daughter's entourage. The deception was not discovered until too late and the Earl had contacted influential friends who spirited him away in a boat to Holland.

When the prime agent of this deception was discovered, Lady Sophia Lindsay was arrested and tried by a Civil Council. Such was the anger at her effrontery that the Council voted that the young woman should be stripped to the waist, tied to a cart tail and whipped all day through the streets of Edinburgh. The sentence was received with horror by Lady Sophia's family, not least by her husband who sought urgent talks with the Duke of York, pleading desperately for some reduction in the sentence, emphasising the degree of humiliation for the whole family including himself, a Stuart supporter, should such a sentence be carried out.

The Duke of York listened sympathetically and, to Lindsay's relief, agreed to substitute an alternative private punishment. He told Lindsay that as his young wife had behaved like a spoilt child she would be treated like one and pronounced his alternative judgement.

Thus it was that on a May morning in 1681, a very tearful Lady Sophia Lindsay was taken to a private room in Edinburgh Castle and there she found waiting a Sergeant-at-Arms, her embarrassed husband and her frantic mother. Knowing her intended punishment, she pleaded with her husband that she be spared this indignity but Lindsay bluntly pointed out that she had brought this upon herself and was fortunate that the affair was not public as originally intended. The Sergeant-at-Arms motioned the duty guard that Lady Sophia was to be made to kneel down over a low stool with her face pressed to the carpet, bottom thus fully raised. When that was done, her long dress and petticoats were lifted up and pinned to her shoulders thus completely exposing her naked bottom. The Sergeant-at-Arms then took up a birch rod and proceeded to give the young woman a very thorough and painful birching lasting half an hour after which she was released into the custody of her husband, amid floods of tears, presumably unable to sit down for a week! Some unsubstantiated reports have said she was given 50 strokes of the birch rod, wearing out two substantial birches in the process. The experience must have been painful and deeply embarrassing but surely preferable to the original sentence!

Sadly, the lady's sacrifice was all too short term for the Earl of Argyll made his way secretly back to Scotland where he was caught, tried once more and this time he was executed.

1 comment:

  1. True historial corporal punishments that are given to renowned woman, such as Rose Keller, Boadicea, and her two daughter's, plus Lady Sophia Lindsey, Are well deserved. They all new the laws of their lands, they broke them and were severely flogged.