Continuing the excellent series by Alex Birch….
*The Boston Quakers*
From the very beginning of the migration of religious dissidents from
England to the New World, Puritans, mainly Calvinists, had built and
developed the city of Boston as a tribute to God’s Kingdom on earth , a
shining example of strict theology, subservience to church elders and to
elected magistrates. They perceived true faith to be represented through
strong personal discipline and obedience. Then, in 1656, the first
Quakers began to arrive in Massachusetts, many missionaries finding
their way to Boston.
Initially there were no laws within Boston preventing Quakers from
worshiping as they saw fit or spreading their version of the faith.
However, it soon became clear to the Calvinists just what a frightening
threat to the established order the Quakers presented with their
ideology of ‘inner light’ , independent convictions and individual
conscience. All this ‘anarchy’ was complete anathema to the strict
Puritan ethic and very soon the leaders of the community resolved to rid
the state of Quakers by any means possible. The first ‘shot across the
bows’ was fired when a ship called The Swallow arrived in Boston harbour
in July 1656, carrying two devout Quaker missionaries named Mary Fisher
and Anne Austin. They were immediately arrested when they set foot on
shore and all their belongings confiscated. Both women were stripped
naked in the presence of six male magistrates and humiliatingly searched
for evidence of witchcraft. None was found and the two women were sent
back to England, but only after all their Quaker tracts had been burned
in the market place.
Laws were hastily brought in tightening the screw on Quakers and making
it illegal to ship them into Boston. The laws included a whipping
sentence for all Quakers who entered the city and heavy fines on any
ships captain who transported them. All this did was encouraged more
brave Quakers to flood into the city to advance their faith and to
express their outrage. In 1659, three Quakers traveled from Rhode
Island to Massachusetts to protest against the persecution of their
faith. The two men were arrested and hanged and the woman, Mary Dyer,
escaped death and was returned to Rhode Island. This brave, or foolhardy
(take your pick), woman returned a year later saying it was God’s will
that she be sent to Boston and this time she too was hanged.
One incident above all others changed the climate for the Quakers
because it shamed and embarrassed the local populace and forced a re
think of some attitudes. This was the arrival in 1662 of three young
English Quaker women to the township of Dover, near Boston. They were
Ann Coleman, Mary Tompkins and Alice Ambrose. They made a general
nuisance of themselves preaching against the established faith and
restrictions on individual conscience. Eventually an influential church
elder named (yes honestly!) Hatevil Nutter organised a petition to have
the women arrested. On receipt of the petition, Richard Waldron, the
Crown magistrate issued an order to the constables of each of eleven
towns within the Boston area that the three young women should be tied
to a cart tail, stripped to the waist, and given ten stripes apiece with
a horse whip on their naked backs in each of the eleven towns.
This was a hideous ruling, a total of 110 stripes each, in addition to
the forced march tied half naked to the cart tail to each of the towns,
a journey of more than 80 miles in bitterly cold winter weather.
On a freezing cold day, in Dover, the three young women were stripped to
the waist, tied to the cart tail and severely whipped while the local
populace stood and laughed. They were then towed to Hampton, the second
of the towns, and delivered to the constable. Early the next day, the
cart was set up in the market place and the three women were again
ordered to strip to the waist. Two of them obeyed, but Anne Coleman
bravely refused. As a result she was stripped completely naked by the
constable, displayed to the crowd and then forced to suffer her whipping
naked before being allowed to dress her lower half again. Then the three
women were towed to Salisbury where the appalling punishment was
delivered for a third time.
In Salisbury however, providence came to their aid. A local doctor who
was also a magistrate, one William Barefoot, rather bravely overturned
the Crown order and declared the punishment to be complete. He
personally dressed the wounds of the three women and returned them
personally to the state of Maine and safety just across the river. Had
the full sentence been administered there is every possibility that the
women might have died. As it was, the public humiliation vented on these
poor women gave some Boston worthies some uncomfortable food for
thought, and pressure to ease up on Quaker persecution began to grow.
Eventually in 1663, these three brave young women returned to Dover and
established a Quaker church. By the year 1670, a third of the citizens
of Dover, Massachusetts were Quakers, so the sacrifice made by these
young women and their predecessors did at last bear fruit
*Catherine de Medici*
Catherine de Medici was born in 1519 in Auvergne and was related via her
maternal grandmother to the royal house of France. She was orphaned when only a baby but her fortunes appeared to have changed when, still only thirteen years old, she was given in marriage to Henry, the second son of King Francis I of France. A lot of political intrigue had surrounded
this match as Pope Clement VII was Catherine’s uncle and the King had
hoped to gain much influence in papal circles. Sadly for Catherine, the
Pope died the year after the wedding so Catherine was of no use to the
King. She was virtually consigned to obscurity for ten years even after
her husband became King. The humiliations she suffered were intense,
having to pander to the whims of her husband’s beautiful mistress, Diane
of Poitiers, merely to retain some respect and authority. It is held
that her experiences of her own public humiliation coloured many of her
She became influential once more when her husband died in 1559 and her
son Francis II took the throne of France. He was the husband of Mary
Stuart and worshiped his mother, allowing her great political influence
in the affairs of state which she grasped eagerly, being a shrewd
political operator. In 1560, her son Francis died and then Catherine
became very powerful once more. As her second son, Charles IX, was only
ten years old, Catherine became regent and virtually Queen of France.
She displayed great skill in dealing with Protestant England under
Elizabeth I, Catholic Spain under Philip II (her son-in-law) and the
Huguenots within her own borders. She managed some very clever balancing
tricks in handling her political alliances.
In 1574, Charles IX died aged only 24, and Catherine’s third son, Henry
Duke of Anjou, became Henry III, King of France. He was a much more
independent and strong minded man than either of his brothers and
Catherine’s influence again began to wane.
It was at this time that a now aging and embittered woman began her
flirtation with the sect of the flagellants. To the consternation of her
son and many other influential people, Catherine joined the Black
Brotherhood, a flagellant sect which she soon took over. As her power
slipped away, so the dark side of Catherine’s nature began to assert
itself. Dark stories began to circulate around the Palace that Catherine
had begun to physically chastise her errant female staff and that one
lady’s maid, who had been caught trying on a dress belonging to the,
now, Queen-Mother had been whipped with birch rods until her bottom bled
This became a regular pattern of behaviour during the latter part of
Catherine’s life and there were few maidservants who survived a week
without severe stripes across their buttocks. The least blemish by any
of her maidservants, a soiled bed-sheet, dust in the corners, breakfast
brought late, all punished by the poor girl stripping naked for a sound
dose of the rod before being allowed tearfully and painfully to resume
Catherine began to preach the gospel of religious flagellation as an
instrument of restored moral values and of corporal punishment as a
necessary agent of domestic correction. She attempted to persuade her
son, Henry, to restore the flagellant sect to a position of influence
within the country but Henry was outraged and would have none of it. So
she compensated by practising on her staff at every opportunity.
Perhaps the most notorious of Catherine’s excesses followed a violent
outburst of anger when she overheard four of her ladies-in-waiting
making fun of her irritability and increasingly eccentric behaviour.
These were no common serving maids but themselves daughters of the
nobility for whom serving the Queen-Mother was a stepping stone to
finding a husband of wealth and influence. What followed therefore must
have been as humiliating an experience as it was possible to imagine.
Catherine hosted a dinner party for a number of influential members of
the nobility during which the four errant young ladies were summoned
into the room.
To the shock and genuine embarrassment of the male guests, some of them parents and close relatives of the young ladies, the four girls were
ushered into the room naked from the waist down and made to stand in
front of all the guests while Catherine delivered a public condemnation
of their behaviour. Then, in front of the assembled gathering, the four
young women were ordered to bend low over a table where they were
birched personally by Catherine until their screams rang round the Hall.
Such was the disgust felt by many of the onlookers that Henry III was
obliged to warn his mother that no such behaviour would ever be
tolerated again, and it seems she heeded his warning. Meanwhile Henry,
growing older had fallen into bad company and had no children. Catherine
lost her fourth son Francis de Valois in 1584 leaving the way open to a
Protestant succession in the shape of Henry Bourbon, a prospect which
horrified Catherine. Still she tried to use her political skills to save
Henry III from his own bad judgments until she discovered that her son
had murdered his arch rival, the Duke of Guise.
Old, bitter and finally disillusioned with her wayward son, the
flagellant Queen-Mother died on 5th January 1589, aged 69.
*Father Cornelius Adriason*
Cornelius Adriason was born in Brussels in 1518, effectively an only
child, though his mother had given birth to a still-born infant earlier.
He was brought up in a well-to-do, caring and religiously devout family
whose most earnest wish was to see their son pass his theological
examinations and enter the priesthood, which he succeeded in doing after
hard work and application, not being the most naturally gifted of students.
He spent some time teaching in a church school and was, by all accounts,
industrious rather than inspirational and it was not long before he
realised his calling lay in more internal Church work. He applied
through his diocese for an assignment to a monastic order and was duly
appointed to a monastery in Brussels teaching theology where his
plodding manner was not so much of a handicap.
Cornelius appears to have been a success in this role which he undertook
for five years when, at the age of 30 he was appointed as spiritual
mentor to the Convent of the Little Sisters in Bruges in 1548. This was
a marked step up the ladder for Cornelius for, in such a convent where
he was the only male authority figure, his word was law, his standing in
the convent hierarchy above even that of the Mother Superior. By
understood convention, however, the spiritual mentor did not interfere
with the running of the convent in any way but had overall
responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the nuns within its walls.
For the first six months of his tenure, he appears to have applied
himself to the role with legitimate and wholesome vigour, earning much
respect from the nuns and strengthening his individual position.
Sometime within that first year, Cornelius, who had always been a
solitary man with no experience of women, underwent an experience which
was to change his life. On two separate occasions and concerning two
different girls, Cornelius was approached by the Mother Superior with
very serious concerns about the behaviour of a young nun. Cornelius,
along with the Mother Superior, counseled the errant girl on each
occasion and, prompted by the Mother Superior’s insistence that suitable
punishment should follow, it was agreed that Cornelius would flagellate
the offender in public view of the entire convent. As was the custom,
the girl was stripped to the waist and a scourge applied to her naked back.
Although by Cornelius’ own account the punishments were not overly
severe, the humiliation of a half-naked girl displayed to all and the
administration of the whip appears to have fired desires in the priest
which were to lead to outrageous excesses.
Adjacent to the convent was a girls’ school which served the daughters
of the wealthy merchants of Bruges and which functioned as a finishing
school for older female pupils, virtually young women, who would become
distinguished ladies in the society of the time. The school was proud of
both its academic record and its commitment to teaching the Catholic
faith, visits both to church on Sundays and to regular confessional at
the adjacent convent being mandatory for all the girls. The pupils were
indoctrinated with the power of the church and an awed respect for their
spiritual confessor who they would visit, in the convent, to receive a
blessing any any appropriate penance. Cornelius soon realised, by the
very nature of his position, how much power he had over these girls and
he soon determined to take advantage of it.
He was very careful in the way he devised his scheme, not rushing his
fences or allowing himself to fall prey to carnal temptation which would
have ruined the plan. Instead he counseled all the girls over a period
of time, chose the ones he considered to be the most desirable and
vulnerable, then proceeded to work on their innate sense of guilt. In
modern legal parlance, Cornelius was undoubtedly guilty of ‘grooming’.
Soon he managed to persuade most of the girls he had targeted that mere
penances of prayer and drudgery were not achieving the desired results
and that more painful remedies were necessary. These poor impressionable
girls, many very upset by what they now perceived to be their dreadful
failings, were induced to virtually beg for corporal punishment to
expiate their sins.
Cornelius was so cunning that he even demanded that they be certain that
a whipping was what they needed then, on receiving affirmation, would
accompany the girl to her home. There he would confront the distressed
parents, the poor girl would break down and admit all her sins, and
Cornelius would obtain written consent from the parents to administer
discipline in any way he chose.
The trap having been laid and the bait taken, Cornelius was free to do
as he wished. The errant girls were taken to his home which adjoined the
convent, each girl having to report to him on a weekly basis. He
arranged his schedule in such a way that he had ‘wicked girls’ to punish
every day of the week. When the girl, nervous and ashamed, was ushered
into Cornelius’ home she was ordered to strip completely. Too frightened
and respectful of the priest to refuse, she would do his bidding
immediately. The girl would then be ordered to bend over a stool
whereupon Cornelius would administer a variable number of strokes,
either with a birch or a whip, to the girl’s naked bottom. After the
punishment, the girl would have to display her stripes for some time
before being allowed to dress and return home.
Unbelievably, this practice continued, unabated for ten years during
which time Cornelius later admitted, at his ecclesiastical enquiry, to
having whipped or birched over 500 young women, some on multiple
occasions. How long he would have continued to enjoy his abuse of power
is anybody’s guess but eventually, in 1558, the sexual desire which
inevitably accompanied the whippings finally proved his undoing, but
even then his unmasking was through accidental discovery, and not as the
result of a victim’s complaint.
It transpired that one student, who I believe to have been named
Marie-Ann Leveque (although accounts differ), a niece of the Mayor of
Bruges, was one of the penitents whose parents had agreed to regular
disciplinary visits and who were quite happy in the knowledge that their
daughter was receiving corporal correction at the hands of the priest.
After all it WAS for her own good…Marie-Ann had admitted so herself.
However one morning, the girl’s mother woke her sleeping daughter, who
had returned from a disciplinary visit to the priest the previous
evening unusually tearful and distressed, and pulled back the sheet.
She was somewhat shocked by the number and intensity of red weals on her
daughter’s bottom but even more concerned by what were obviously spots
of blood on the sheet. There being no obvious signs of broken skin as a
result of the punishment, the girl was questioned by her angry mother
and, under intense interrogation, Marie-Ann broke down. She said that
when the punishment was over , the priest had held her tightly while she
remained bending over then she felt something enter her ‘shameful
place’. A doctor was called who confirmed anal penetration and a shocked
Leveque family began proceedings against the priest.
At first a wall of silence was thrown around the complaints by the
Church but eventually, after great persistence by the girl’s family and
their influential civic contacts, an ecclesiastical enquiry was opened
into the conduct of Father Cornelius Hadrian.
Amazingly, the priest did little to defend himself, virtually admitting
every charge that was thrown at him, possibly because of guarantees
obtained in advance to avoid embarrassing the Catholic Church with a
protracted ecclesiastical ‘trial’. He was dismissed from his post as
mentor to the convent but on full pension and no criminal charges were
ever brought against him.
It is assumed that the embarrassed parents, shocked at their own
gullibility, had no wish to see their naivety exposed in open court thus
Cornelius virtually escaped scot-free, happy in the knowledge, one
assumes, that it was great while it lasted!
*The Countess (‘Princess’) Irene Batthyany*
The name of the Countess Irene Batthyany is not one which is familiar to
most people, but, nevertheless, she had a brief flirtation with both
fame and humiliation as the beautiful wife of Count Lajos Batthyany,
whose reign as President of Hungary was brief and tragic, ending in his
execution. The widowed Countess, though spared such a fate, was
nonetheless subjected to a very public shame.
To provide some background, in the mid 19th century, Europe was
controlled by mighty empires, one of the largest being the Austrian
Empire which then included part of Germany, the Czech Republic,
Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia and Hungary. The year of 1848 became known as
the year of revolution because, almost simultaneously, many of these
subordinate nations began to flex their muscles and demand varying
degrees of self-government. In the forefront of these nations was
Hungary. The politics involved in the issue were complex and so the
reader will be spared too much insomnia – inducing background to the
independence struggle. To understand how Irene Batthyany arrived at her
humiliating fate, it is necessary to mention a few names and look at a
brief summary of events.
The first of these names is Louis Kossuth. He was the leader of the
opposition to Austrian control and, in 1848, amid a tide of revolt, he
saw the opportunity to demand a certain degree of self-government for
the Hungarians. Austria at first reacted with anger and indignation, but
when revolution actually broke out in Vienna itself, the Austrians,
fearing Hungary might secede from the empire, capitulated.
Amid scenes of joy,a fellow member of the Austrian opposition, Count
Lajos Batthyany, was appointed provisional President of the new
semi-independent Hungary and the provisional government sought to set up
a type of government acceptable to the people and that turned out to be
pseudo-monarchy with Batthyany at its head. So Batthyany adopted the
courtesy title of Prince and his proud and lovely wife Irene became
Princess Batthyany. Countess (‘Princess’) Irene Batthyany was a dark
haired beauty in her early forties at the time of the revolt, the mother
of five children including three adult sons who were serving in the
The national joy was short-lived, for, although Hungary had its limited
self-government, it immediately inherited problems. Within Hungary’s
borders lay the state of Croatia whose people also sought self rule.
Given the lesser of two evils, if the Croatians had disliked being
slaves of Austria, they positively detested falling under the writ of
the ‘Magyars’ and immediately began to agitate against the situation
with their overall rulers in Austria.
So a new key name in the saga emerged when Austria appointed a new
Commissar for Croatia, a Colonel Joseph Jellacic, who was fiercely
anti-Hungarian. Once in power he broke off relations between Croatia and
Hungary on 19th April 1848, putting the new Hungarian regime immediately
in doubt over its survival. On 10th May, a Slovak minority within
Hungary asked for independent rights and five days later the Romanians
condemned the new union with Hungary.
Prince Batthany, realising that his newly self governing nation was
facing trouble from all quarters, tried to do deals with his Austrian
masters if they disavowed Croatian Commissar Jellacic. Batthyany and his
wife were contemptuous of Jellacic and his motives and made no secret of
the fact in public utterances, which drove the Croatian leader to fury.
Given subsequent events, this was to prove a terrible error of judgment
by the Batthyany family, for the Austrians, while apparently sympathetic
to Batthyany’s problems, were secretly boosting Jellacic in undermining
the Hungarian regime.
Confident now that he had Austria’s blessing, Joseph Jellacic’s Croatian
army, together with a Serbian force, attacked Hungary in June of 1848
and very quickly captured much of southern Hungary.
The hapless Prince Batthyany resigned and the Hungarian government
attempted a compromise with their Austrian masters but to no avail,
Batthyany’s resignation proving to be the catalyst for an open war
between the young Hungarian government and the Austrian monarchy.
Despite the Prince’s resignation from government, the brave and
determined Hungarians were at first remarkably successful on the
battlefield, turning the early tide against them, and prompting the
abdication of the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand in favour of his nephew,
Franz-Joseph. Soon, however, the weight of numbers was too much and the
reconstituted Austrian army launched two new assaults taking the
Hungarian capital city of Pest within 2 weeks.
The outcome of hostilities was finally decided when the Russians, under
Czar Nicholas I, who had stood by and watched developments, finally
decided that if Hungarian insurrection proved successful, revolt might
begin within the Russian empire, and so decided to crush the Hungarians
in order to deter such a possibility.
In June of 1849, two Russian armies entered Hungary, a total of nearly
half a million men now opposing the fledgling regime. It was too much.
The Hungarian government fled into exile, and on 13th August 1849, the
Russian commander Marshal Paskievicz was able to report to the Czar,
‘Hungary lies at your feet, your Majesty.’
Now the full weight of Austrian and Russian retribution hit Hungary. The
country was placed under a military administration and thirteen of
Hungary’s senior officers were publicly hanged. Prince Batthyany, unable
to escape from the country with his family, had tried to commit suicide
by cutting his throat but he was forcibly prevented from doing so. He
was arrested, along with his sons who were serving in the free Hungarian
army. The sons were sent to prison and on October 6th 1849, Prince Lajos
Batthyany was shot by firing squad. The occupying forces then proceeded
to run riot, tearing down Hungarian flags and wrecking shops. About 100
executions followed until an amnesty spared the remainder, including the
widowed Princess Irene Batthyany who was allowed to remain in the lavish
family home until it was decided what to do with her.
The mood of the mob, which at first had been supportive of Hungarian
independence, turned sour in the wake of humiliating defeat, much of the
anger turning on the exiled government and the Batthyany family. Boosted
by the public mood, a group of Russian officers decided to teach the
widowed Princess Irene Batthyany a humiliating lesson. A group of
Russian soldiers gate-crashed the Palace of the Batthyany family and
found Princess Irene alone apart from her personal maid. Frightened, she
demanded that they leave only to be told that, because of her past
arrogance towards the country’s true rulers, and because she had
encouraged her sons to fight with the rebel Hungarian forces, she was
going to be taught a lesson for her part in bringing the country out
Despite her shrieks of protest, Irene Batthyany was carried out of her
palace by the officers and dragged, kicking and screaming, to the Pest
market square where an enthusiastic mob soon gathered to witness Irene’s
humiliation. The terrified Princess was dragged up onto a platform and
her head and hands secured in a pillory normally reserved for vagrants
If her shame at such treatment was not enough , Irene was further
mortified to see the Croat leader Jellicec, who she had so often
derided, seated on the platform along with a number of Croat
officers…..and, worse still, her three sons who had been brought from
prison to witness their mother’s ordeal.
Cheered on by the mob, the Russian officers lifted Irene’s dress and
petticoats , securing them to her shoulders, then pulled down her lace
drawers, exposing her naked bottom to the jeering mob. One of the
Russian officers then removed his thick leather belt and proceeded to
spank the bare bottom of the shrieking Princess before handing over to
another officer who continued the punishment. When three officers had
administered a harsh dose of the belt to Irene’s now scarlet and
roasting bottom, she was shrieking in anguish and the Russians relented
and released her. She was made to kiss the hand of Jellicec and offer
apologies for past slights before being allowed to dress and return home.
If it was any consolation to the unfortunate Irene, she was not alone.
The Austrians, in their anger, targeted a number of high born society
women who had given encouragement to the revolution, stripped them naked
and whipped them all with birch rods in public. One of the most famous
of these, in addition to the Princess, was Madam Maderspach, who was
stripped naked and whipped cruelly. She survived the whipping and
subsequently gave evidence on the matter but her husband was so ashamed
by the treatment dished out to his wife that he committed suicide. A
number of plaques and statues to these female victims can be found in
If anyone is interested in pursuing the veracity of this account you
could start with Stephen Bonsal’s ‘Balkan Report’ written in 1890 and
‘Revolutions of 1848’ by Priscilla Robertson