I recall from my university history courses a factoid about rose tattoos being used to mark convicts condemned to death in Europe during the Renaissance period (in case of escape), and was wondering if anyone has any credible sources for this factoid, or more information about the history of the rose tattoo in the context of being used to mark a condemned man.

You know that whole "raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth" thing we practice in court in the US to this day? That dates back to the middle ages when convicted criminals would be branded or tattooed on their right hand with a record of their crimes, so the next judge they stood in front of would be able to get a look at their criminal history by having them raise their right hand. Doubt it all you want, but it was a common practice in days of yore, and I'm really looking for informed opinions/citations on this particular mark as practiced historically, not personal doubts.

  • 2
    Highly doubtful. Why tattoo someone elaborately and why with a rose? Makes no sense to me.
    – Jos
    Mar 14 '19 at 6:40
  • 3
    I understand that, but in those days they didn't waste any time. They would simply brand the culprit. That's why I commented, and didn't give an answer. Because I don't know either. ;-)
    – Jos
    Mar 14 '19 at 7:33
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    Please Document preliminary research and don't reply in comments
    – MCW
    Mar 14 '19 at 10:40

This sounds like a garbled version of the fleur-de-lis brand used in France. -

Until 1832 in France, various offenses carried the additional infamy of being branded with a fleur de lis

This would be used on criminals who were not condemned to death, (which makes sense if you think about it) but apparently would be carried out by the executioner.

As far as the right-hand oath is concerned, whilst the Wikipedia article notes that "Most often the right hand is raised. This custom has been explained with reference to medieval practices of branding palms" I personally am sceptical, considering the fact using a hand for making an oath dates back to the bible*; why it would be the right hand is both a matter of practicality (most people are right handed) , with an additional reason which would be quickly in the mind of anyone who knows the etymology of sinister.

As an aside, the brand was famously used as a major reveal in Dumas' three musketeers.

*place your hand under my thigh, and swear to me etc.

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