A whipping boy was an individual who was kept to be whipped when a young prince’s behaviour deserved chastisement. The person of the prince was sacrosanct but even princes had to be schooled and to learn that certain behaviours merited punishment, so that punishment was meted out to the substitute–the whipping boy. History offers some named examples of this process in operation. Barnaby Fitzpatrick served as whipping boy to Edward VI and Mungo Murray performed the same function for Charles I. In 1593, Henry IV of France abjured his Protestant faith and became a Catholic. D’Ossat and Du Perron, who were Henry’s ambassadors at the time of his reception into the Roman Catholic Church, were dispatched to Rome to receive whatever punishment the pope decided Henry should suffer. They were ordered to kneel in the portico of St Peter’s and sing the miserere. At each verse they were beaten about the shoulders with a switch. Both whipping boys eventually became cardinals.
– Tom Douglas, Scapegoats: Transferring Blame (1995)