Strict discipline was essential onboard ship and punishment was swift and severe. Almost all aspects of life on board ship were covered by a set of rules. Punishment on ship was governed by the laws of Oleron, believed to have been instituted by Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II. They covered everything from blasphemy to gambling and the issue of sailors' vituals.
A seaman caught stealing was tarred and feathered then forced to run the gauntlet of the whole crew, finally being dismissed from the ship. A murderer was lashed to his victims body and thrown overboard. For blaspheming, offenders had a marlin spike (metal pin), clamped into their mouths until they are very bloody; an excellent cure for swearers. Drawing a knife on a shipmate could result in the loss of the right hand. The worst punishment, though rare was keel-hauling, when a sailor was tied to a rope, thrown over the side of the ship, dragged through the water underneath the rough, barnacle covered ship's bottom, and hauled up the other side of the ship. Few survived this gruesome torture.
Thomas Doughty was accused and found guilty of mutiny aboard the Golden Hind, this was one of the worst crimes onboard and he was sentenced to death by beheading. Look out for the Thomas Doughy display on board the Ship!
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Why do you think it was important for the Captain to maintain discipline on the ship?