Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Of Cromwell’s hostility to art, learning and, above all, the democratic method, there is little need to write. How characteristically the father-identifier disapproves enquiry was also shown a few years later when a Puritan condemned the newly founded Royal Society as “impious“.

But the main body of public opinion was against such extremity of Puritanism, and still more was it against the brow-beating of Parliament. The Parliament men discovered o their alarm that they had allied themselves with authoritarians far more ruthless than the Stuart kings. Crowds thronged the streets, crying “Give us a free Parliament”, and Monk’s testy dismissal “You shall have a free Parliament”, was taken as a promise, causing a chain of beacons to be lighted which bore the supposed good news round Britain and, so doing, insured that it should come true.

The Puritan regime exhibited one feature which one normally associates more with matrism: it made a greatly extended use of public humiliation as a deterrent. The Catholic Church had stressed conscience as the guide to behaviour and had often pointed out that one should be prepared to defy public opinion if necessary. True, it had sometimes employed an element of humiliation — for instance, in public penance —but on the whole it felt that public opinion was too tolerant: fasts and flagellations were its preferred punishments for minor offences.

The Puritans, however, could not rely on confession and a system of ecclesiastical courts to make sure that private penances would be observed, and perhaps hesitated to use flagellation except for the most serious offences. They therefore made extensive use of the pillory, the stocks and the jougs. In Scotland, even more feared than the pillory was the punishment of having to appear in church every Sunday for a given number of weeks, usually twenty-six or fifty-two, to be harangued for half an hour in front of the congregation by the minister — for which purpose, in some churches, offenders were fastened to the wall in iron collars, or jougs. This was the penalty for adulterers and fornicators of both sexes, and was greatly feared. So much so, that it caused a sharp rise in the infanticide rate, for women who had illegitimately become pregnant preferred to risk the capital penalty for infanticide rather than admit the facts and suffer such extreme public humiliation. (112)