The Day the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister were Horsewhipped for Theft

The annals of the Old Bailey record the prosecution of many people for the theft of teaspoons but a most unusual occurrence is to be found in the memoirs of William Hickey (1749-1803), diarist and ‘Gentleman Attorney’ who spent the greater part of his life in India.

In 1769 en route for India, Hickey’s ship visited the island of Johanna (one of the Comoro Islands just north of Madagascar) and he relates the following: On the third day, and about to set off on an excursion to the island

“while a boat was [being readied] we heard an amazing outcry in the steerage, which upon enquiry we found proceeded from ‘His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’!, who upon being told that this was the title given to the King of England’s eldest son, insisted on his having it also, as he was the King of Johanna’s only son. His Highness, however, forgetting his elevated rank, had stolen a silver teaspoon while visiting Mr. Chisholme in his cabin and his Prime Minister, not to be behindhand with his royal master, purloined a blanket. Both culprits being caught in the act, Chisholme was administering justice by horsewhipping those great men, which occasioned the uproar. The unfortunate prince and his officer of state, after a smart chastisement, were turned out of the ship with ignominy, and orders [were] given that neither of them should ever more be permitted to come on board”.

Luke Schrager


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