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The picquet (alternately spelled piquet) was a military punishment in vogue in late medieval Europe that was sufficiently cruel and ingenious to be characterized by some as a method of torture.

The punishment of the picquet required extremely simple equipment, to wit, a stake with one end in the ground and other, exposed end, facing upward. The exposed end would be sharpened to a rounded point. The malefactor, typically a junior officer who had disobeyed orders, was confined in a most unusual fashion. One thumb was suspended from a tree, while the opposite naked foot (in this instance, the right) was balanced atop the stake. The point of the stake atop which the foot rested was sufficiently sharp to cause considerable discomfort but insufficient to penetrate the flesh or separate bones. By relieving pressure from his foot, the prisoner placed all of his weight on the suspended thumb, imposing untoward muscular strain thereupon; whereas, by relieving tension from his thumb, the prisoner exposed his foot to the full effect of the picquet, engendering torturous agony as the sharpened end ground relentlessly into the sole of his foot—or his heel, were he clever enough to position himself so that the heavier, less-sensitive flesh of the heel was directly exposed to the picquet.

The procedure could be continued for as short a duration as a few hours, or as long a duration as twenty-four hours (or even forty-eight during extreme cases). The punishment did not cause lasting harm.

See also


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