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Whipping boy

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Animated Definitions: Whipping Boy

A whipping boy was, supposedly, a boy educated alongside a prince in early modern Europe, who 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". 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. 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.
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    • Putative historical examples 

    • In later literature 

    • Modern slavery