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  • It's the late Middle Ages in that green  and often not so pleasant land known as  

  • England. In a small rural village next to  the River Wensum in the East of the country  

  • a woman has been accused of a reprehensible crimewell, she has a litany of accusations against her.  

  • Following continuous bickering with her neighbor  over the disappearance of a buxom Greylag goose,  

  • under the common law, the accused has  been indicted for excessive arguing  

  • and of being a public nuisance. If that wasn't  bad enough, another blemish on her character are  

  • allegations made by a local woman that she's an  incorrigible strumpet! As a threat to public peace  

  • and the general decency of the village the menfolk  deliberate on a punishment befitting the crimes

  • Will it be forced silence through the iron muzzle  or the dreaded and sometimes deadly cucking stool?  

  • Her male judges opt for the second choice, a  popular punishment that provides a morning's  

  • entertainment for mostly downtrodden  people whose happiness is sometimes derived  

  • from another person's humiliation and pain. Is that a true story? Well, not exactly - we  

  • might have embellished a bit with the vanishing  goose. Still, it's based on centuries of  

  • recorded history. Quite extreme versions of this  punishment even happened in the U.S., something  

  • we'll discuss at the end. But first let's talk  about England, where the punishment was born

  • In the Middle Ages when people lived in very  small towns and villages the authorities had  

  • some strange laws regarding maintaining public  peace. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 when  

  • the English were forced to bow to their  new French rulers, a common-law was set up

  • Basically, if you committed a serious crime, the  punishment might be death or at the very least  

  • losing your property. But there were also what  you might call medieval misdemeanors, crimes today  

  • that might only lose you a few friends, or get  you doxxed or ghosted or deleted on social media

  • Yep, in the Middle Ages, it was a crime to speak  out, to argue a lot, to troll, and certainly to  

  • fly a flag of justice. The laws mostly applied to  peasants of course, so if a poor person spoke up  

  • and announcedPoor Lives Mattertheir existence  would no doubt have been hard going from thereon

  • Not only people fighting for justice were  punished, though. Merely talking too much about  

  • a subject, especially if you were a woman, could  result in an arrest by the village mob. These  

  • people were a kind of police calledWatchmen.” Someone accused of quarreling about a missing  

  • goose could be arrested for being a “common  scold.” Someone who gossiped about someone  

  • else could also be called a scold. The meaning of  that word back then was defined as, “A clamorous,  

  • rude, mean, low, foul-mouthed woman.” It depended on the nature of the perceived crime,  

  • but as you'll see in today's show, the guilty  person might get away with some cuts and bruises  

  • and a red face, but they might also die asresult of their punishment. Merely speaking  

  • one's mind could get someone in serious trouble. Before we talk about the creative device of the  

  • cucking stool, you might want to know what  other kinds of crimes could lead to a person  

  • being called a common scold. The punishment  by the way would be handed down in something  

  • called the manorial courts, which were courts  for peasants. It was kind of comparable to  

  • the justice system now, whereby you could say  poor folks get a manorial public defender... 

  • In the 14th century, you could be accused of being  a scold for a number of things, but mostly there  

  • were four reasons, at the time written in the  law in the language of Latin. In those days in  

  • England Old English was considered crude. French  was the language of the moneyed and educated  

  • and Latin was reserved for laws and other serious  matters. Ok, so the four terms were, “objurgator”,  

  • garulator”, “rixatorandlitigator.” That  basically translates astalking negatively”,  

  • talking too much”, “having argumentsand  “criticizing people or things too much”. 

  • You're now thinking, well, that's about every  person I know who posts on social media,  

  • but if you think Facebook's community standards  relating to certain types of speech are strict,  

  • non-virtual community standards in Middle  Ages England were downright despotic

  • The punishments were dished out a lot  when conditions for the poor were bad.  

  • That's because they were apt to complain  and argue when they were literally starving.  

  • If a peasant was found walking around his village  moaning about hard times and abject inequality,  

  • he or she wasn't applauded for talking about the  oppressive landowner and his flagrant neglect  

  • of human rights. That peasant was punished for  his views, even though that opinion was humane  

  • and relatable to other peasants. The common law  was partly designed to keep the poor in line.  

  • The wealthy feared rebellion, for good reason. Throughout history, women were the victims of  

  • this law many more times than men. That doesn't  mean only women fought for human rights, far  

  • from it, it was because society was incrediblyunbelievably, sexist. If the rich kept the poor  

  • in line, everybody kept women in line. If peasant  women actually reached the age of 25, their life  

  • expectancy during much of the late Middle  Ages due to the mortal hazards of childbirth,  

  • they rarely learned a craft and as one historian  put it, “had little control over their own lives.” 

  • Cheating on a spouse was a sure way to  end up in the local courts. The crime of  

  • adultery usually resulted in the husband being  paid some compensation from the cuckolder,  

  • although semi-lawful revenge-killing  wasn't unheard of, especially if the  

  • couple was caught in the act, a term calledin  flagrante delicto”. The courts would often rule  

  • that the murder took place under mitigating  circumstances. Still, for the most part,  

  • it was the woman who took the blame and she'd  more often than not be accused of being a scold

  • Even walking around at night  could get a woman in trouble,  

  • and if she was found eavesdropping on  someone or God forbid talking to another guy,  

  • she would likely find herself  on the wrong end of the law

  • The first instances of these punishments were  written about in the Domesday Book, a manuscript  

  • finished in 1086 which was ordered by King William  the Conqueror. He basically wanted to know what  

  • was going on in the land he had conquered and  so asked for a survey of the entire country

  • It is in this book that we first hear about  the cucking stool, or something close to it.  

  • The book talks aboutcathedra stercoriswhich  can loosely be translated as a punishment chair.  

  • A small crime, such as talking out of linecould result in a man or a woman being  

  • strapped to a chair with their bare buttocks  showing. They would then be paraded through  

  • the village or town while locals jeered themThe whole process was intended to embarrass the  

  • accused. This might also happen to brewers and  bakers who'd sold poor quality beer or bread

  • That doesn't sound too bad really compared to  some of the punishments we've talked about before,  

  • but that was perhaps the least  extreme version of the cucking stool

  • This went on for centuries and was the go-to  punishment for people who talked or acted out  

  • of line, especially women. As we said, it was  employed more frequently during tough times  

  • when folks complained about work, life, lack  of food, etc. According to historians, speech  

  • considered bad was especially prevalent during  the Black Death, which isn't really surprising  

  • given that around half the population of England  was wiped outmostly in the poorer, rural areas,  

  • where the vast majority of people lived. In the 16th century, something else was added  

  • to the mix in the world punishing scolds, and that  was called thebranksor theScold's bridle.”

  • This was the iron muzzle we talked aboutsomething today you might associate with  

  • sadomasochism or theSawmovie franchiseIt was almost always reserved for women of  

  • the poorer classes. It seems for a while it  superseded the cucking stool, but the latter  

  • would be back with a vengeance soon enough. As for the Scold's bridle, it served the same  

  • purpose more or less than the cucking  stool had in the earlier centuries,  

  • only due to it having a plate that held down  the wearer's tongue, the condemned woman could  

  • not speak. It was also very uncomfortableCan you imagine sleeping while wearing an  

  • iron muzzle that continuously makes you drool? Again, arguing or criticizing might get a woman in  

  • trouble, but even excessive nagging at her husband  could end up with her being fastened inside  

  • one of those horrid contraptions. To add to the  discomfort, a spike was added to the bridle so if  

  • the woman did try and mutter something her tongue  might get pierced. This kind of punishment didn't  

  • really make it over the pond to the New Worldalthough there is some evidence of it being used  

  • on slaves who had been accused of being unruly. It was in England and Scotland, though, were the  

  • Scold's Bridle was popular with local authoritiesSome of the bridles have been preserved, with one  

  • having an inscription on it dedicated to a man  named Chester. The inscription goes like this,  

  • Chester presents Walton with a bridle, to  curb women's tongues that talk too idle.”  

  • As the tale goes, a woman's gossip  led to Chester losing a lot of money

  • There's some evidence the Scold's Bridle was  still used from the 16th to the 19th century,  

  • but the cucking stool made a comeback, only this  time with some fearsome technological advances.  

  • This time water was involved. Thus, the  cucking stool became the ducking stool.

  • A French writer in the 18th century  named Francois Maximilian Misson  

  • wrote that the punishment waspleasant enough”,  although we're guessing he never tried it himself,  

  • especially on a day in freezing cold JanuaryHis explanation of the contraption was basically  

  • a chair fastened to two long poles, which  were both connected to an axle. The person  

  • was strapped to the chair so they wouldn't  fall out into the water and then the chair  

  • was ducked in the water. How many times that  person was ducked depended on the crime,  

  • or in Misson's words, as long as it took to cool  down herimmoderate heat.” His example featured  

  • a woman because as you know it almost always  happened to women. If men were charged with a  

  • breach of the peace, they were likely put in  the stocks and pelted with garbage or beaten.

  • The cucking victim didn't escape  the jeers of the madding crowd,  

  • either. The chair would often be connected to some  wheels so prior to her being ducked in the water  

  • she was wheeled through town in front of people  calling her out for being a gossip, a flirt,  

  • a back-biter, or something else. The water was  supposed to tame the woman, or even purify her

  • You might now be thinking that the  ducking stool doesn't sound so bad  

  • and in more clement weather you might actually  pay for a go on a ducking stool, but hold your  

  • tongue for a while because it gets worse. You only need to hear this poem written in  

  • 1780 to know this punishment wasn't exactlybarrel of laughs. Part of it went like this

  • There stands, my friend, in yonder pool An engine called the ducking-stool

  • By legal power commanded down The joy and terror of the town

  • If noisy dames should once begin To drive the house with horrid din

  • Away, you cry, you'll grace the stool. We'll teach you how your tongue to rule.” 

  • This brings us to another kind of ducking stoolone which didn't exactly ensure the women didn't  

  • drown. It was similar to what we've already  discussed, except the shafts that held the  

  • chair could be released. According to the  Encyclopedia Britannica, once the chair and  

  • its occupant fell into the water she might not  make it out again. Since the chair always faced  

  • the punishers, the woman fell into the water  backward. It was quite the shock of course

  • You have to remember that in those days people  were terrified of water and not many folks knew  

  • how to swim. That was one reason why  people feared being ducked so much

  • Ducking also happened in what would one  day become the United States of America

  • We found this text that was taken  from the Statute Books of Virginia

  • Whereas oftentimes many brabbling women  often slander and scandalize their neighbors,  

  • for which their poor husbands are often  brought into chargeable and vexatious suits  

  • and cast in great damages, be it enacted that  all women found guilty be sentenced to ducking.” 

  • If you're wondering whatbrabblingmeansit's to stubbornly argue about trifling matters

  • We found another case in the New World dated  1634, in which Betsey, the wife of John Tucker,  

  • is accused of employing theviolence of  her tongueto make his house as well as her  

  • neighborhooduncomfortable.” She was at first  ducked for half a minute, but according to the  

  • text, she didn't repent. She was subsequently  ducked for thirty seconds another five times,  

  • after which she cried out, “Let me go Let  me go, by God's help I'll sin no more.” 

  • A man writing from Boston in 1686 said  the ducking stool was aneffectual  

  • remedy to cure the noise that is in many  women's heads”. In case you're wondering,  

  • there's no evidence that the ducking stool was  ever used to kill a woman accused of witchcraft.  

  • Accused witches, men, and women, usually  received far more cruel and unusual punishments

  • In Philadelphia, in 1708, the Common Council  asked that a ducking stool be built not just  

  • for argumentative women, but for women accused of  being drunk and disorderly. Fast-forward to 1824  

  • and a court in Philadelphia said it wouldn't  duck a woman due to the fact the practice was  

  • obsolete and not in thespirit of the time.”  Nonetheless, around that time a Miss Palmer from  

  • Georgia was ducked three times in the Oconee River  for nothing more than beingglib of the tongue.” 

  • More than one ducking could indeed kill a personAccording to the historian Geoffrey Abbott,  

  • repeated duckingsroutinely proved fatalthe victim dying of shock or drowning.” 

  • It was in the early 19th century that  the ducking stool was outlawed in the UK  

  • and in the U.S., replaced by general sex  discrimination of a more modern kind

  • Now you need to watch this, “Skinned AliveWorst Ways to Die.” Or, have a look at this,  

  • The Brazen Bull (Worst Punishment  in the History of Mankind).”

It's the late Middle Ages in that green  and often not so pleasant land known as  

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Cucking Stool - Worst Punishments in the History of Mankind

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/01
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