Illustration for article titled Mitten-shaped brand marked the hands of army deserters

It looks like an iron maiden for your palms, and this painful looking device was meant to leave the hands of criminals with a mark no one would forget.


This object is part of the Science Museum collection in London, whose curators explain that the brand was made by the British Army during the English Civil War in the 17th century. The initials on the brand "CR," likely refer to King Charles I, "Carolus Rex":

This tool would have been used to mark ‘ownership’ of Royalist army deserters. The metal spikes on the hand are blunt. Perhaps they are dulled through use or perhaps it is deliberate to inflict more pain. However, they were likely heated first to burn the imprint in. Branding was abolished in 1829 with the exception of army deserters. The mark was then tattooed on the body, not branded with irons. The practice was totally abandoned in 1879.


Hand brand, for use on felons or deserters, England, 1642-1649 [Science Museum via Retronaut]

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