The Surprising Start of St. Andrews

 Posted by on September 17, 2011
Sep 172011

By the Royal Jester

Kate Middleton and Prince William met at the University of St. Andrews. It’s the third oldest university in the United Kingdom and the oldest in Scotland, having been founded in 1413. It is located in a lovely town of the same name on the east coast of Scotland.

If you take A917 in St. Andrews to B9131 south to Anstruther, about ten miles, and turn right onto Castle Street just as the Firth of Forth looms in front of you, you’ll find some fragments of Dreel Castle. It’s really not much to look at and what’s left is privately owned, so there’s not much to visit.

Dreel Castle had a peculiar aura back in the beginning of the 18th century. It was the birthplace in 1733 of the Beggar’s Benison, or the Most Ancient and Puissant Order of the Beggar’s Benison and Merryland. The word “benison” is from the Middle English and means, in short, a blessing or benediction. The term “Merryland” is a type of topographical, erotic description of the female anatomy peculiar to 18th Britain. Less ambiguous is the club’s motto: “May prick nor pursene’er fail you”.

So what does this have to do with the University of St. Andrews or, more importantly, Prince William? Well, Prince William’s royal ancestor, King George IV, was allegedly a member of the club when he was a mere Prince Regent. And the regalia of the club, along with some minutes of their meetings, can be found at the Beggar’s Benison and Wig Club collection of the University of St Andrews. It was written up by David Stevenson, Professor Emeritus of Scottish History at the University of St Andrews, in his curious volume entitled The Beggar’s Benison: Sex Clubs of Enlightenment Scotland and Their Rituals.

So what happened at the Castle? Well, the Beggar’s Benison was a men’s club for drinking, bawdy songs and readings from pornographic literature such a Fanny Hill. You know, the usual.

Local young females were hired to pose nude, but the males were forbidden to touch them. It was like a modern day strip club, in that respect, but the members were allowed to touch their own … members. In fact, it was encouraged and was the center piece for initiates.

The initiation is somewhat amusing giving its mock solemnity:

“The Sovereign presided over the Members wearing their sashes and silver-gilt medals. The Remembrancer produced the Testing-Platter which was placed on a high Stool or Altar in the centre of the room. The Recorder and two Remembrancers prepared the Novice in a closet, by causing him to propel his Penis until full erection. When thus ready he was escorted with four puffs of the Breath-Horn before the Brethren or Knighthood, and was ordered by the Sovereign to place his Genitals upon the Testing Platter, which was covered with a folded white nap-kin, The Members and Knights two and two came round in a state of erection and touched the Novice Penis to Penis, Thereafter the special Glass, with the Society’s Insignia thereon and Medal attached, was filled with Port Wine, when the new Brother’s health was heartily and humorously drunk, He was told to select an amorous Passage from the Song of Solomon and to read it aloud with comments; after which he was arrayed with Sash and Medal by the Sovereign, repeating the words along with the others, “May Prick nor Purse never fail you”. The Banquet Followed …”

A scanned image of this anonymously written book from 1892 shows various records, minutes of meetings and photographs of some of the regalia used can be found here

The following entry is fairly typical:

“1735. St. Andrew’s Day. 24 present. Every Penis exhibited and compared by erection and frig-discharge, 3 Novices were tested. A girl of 15 appeared nude for a few minutes: she shewed herself satisfactorily and was engaged for next Assembly.”

The idea was very popular and the club was franchised with local variations in places such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and possibly as far as St. Petersburg in Russia. But by the early 19th century the Victorian era and its conservative values began to take hold and the clubs silently disappeared.

So the next time you’re in St. Andrews, stop by the University to take a look at the Beggar’s Benison and Wig Club collection. But you better have a scholarly reason to view the collection because it is not open to any average pervert. Better yet, see if you can dig up a used copy of Professor Stevenson’s opus perverti.