I know you get frequent stories from those of us raised within the upper echelons of society – here is another! I hope to sound less stuffy than some: I’m not a rich, conservative lady who married into more money, had a son and daughter and immediately sent them off to boarding school. I’m a fairly ordinary woman with an ordinary husband and ordinary children who just so happens to have attended a prestigious private school and received frequent corporal punishment in my childhood.
I was born in 1980. My mother was devoted to socialising, while my father was quite high up in the military. I have two older brothers and one younger sister, and we were all sent away to boarding school at the age of five. Before then, we attended a local private primary school, from the age of three.
The primary school gave us regular hard slaps on the clothed bottom, with a thick wooden ruler occasionally applied to bare calves if the situation called for it.
At home, we had an au pair, a lovely French girl named Marie, who looked after me from when I was an infant to about six. Marie gave hard smackings – pants down, over her knee, hand to bottom. I remember, even at that young age, being put on a stool in the corner afterwards, bottom burning and a strange buzzing sensation in my vulva.
Our next au pair was a Belgian second cousin named Chloe. She had a cane, which she used on the girls’ hands and the boys’ bottoms. Chloe only cared for me during the school holidays so I knew her less well than Marie, but my younger sister tells me that she was a frequent caner when the rest of us were away at school.
After Chloe came another French girl, recommended by Marie (with whom we remain in contact to this day, by the way), named Lea. Like Marie, Lea believed smacking bottoms hard, though I remember she would only give it to us over our underwear because she had seen some news story about a British parent who was arrested for spanking their child’s bare bottom with a hairbrush, and so she sought to remain within the law.
My first boarding school didn’t use corporal punishment all that often. It was rather ‘Jane Eyre’ – serious trouble led to us standing on stools in the dining hall for hours on end, sometimes with a plaque around our necks proclaiming our crimes. It was humiliating and awful.
When corporal punishment was applied, it was one or two strokes of the cane on the palm of the left hand (regardless of if you were left-handed or not. I am, and was told it was my own fault for being left-handed that my writing hand was now sore!
Miss Williams, the headmistress of my second boarding school, was quite old and quite stern. She didn’t cane all that often but she was certainly thorough when she did. When I was 13 I received three strokes across my knickers for kissing a boy in the library. He got five strokes, which felt quite unfair.
You could say my cchildhood was anachronistic – when I finished my A Levels, we all had CD players and some of us were already using the internet. Yet my classmates and I had all experienced a damn good smacked bottom and/or caning.
Most of my former classmates have gone on to live rich lives amongst the aristocracy, the upper echelons and the military. My husband grew up on a council estate, and while we have generational wealth from my father’s death, we both work.
We didn’t beat our children, though a childminder did once give one of them a good smack when he was six and was being an utter terror. He was removed from that childminder in the future, though he later confided in us that it hadn’t hurt that much and he wasn’t scared of her.