In England in the late Middle Ages, the penalty for lesser crimes was branding. Miscreants were generally branded on the fleshy part of the left hand with the hot iron. Rogues and vagabonds were marked with the letter 'R'; thieves with 'T'; and those guilty of manslaughter with 'M'. Other parts of the body were also branded: for shoplifting, the cheek was burned; for blasphemy, the tongue was bored through with a red-hot skewer; for perjury, the letter 'P' was branded on the forehead. Branding remained a penalty in the English civil court until 1829, but was not abolished in the army until 1879.
Very interesting tidbit…but so by the time in game, in 1871, it would've been out of the civil courts already, so only those characters (if any) involved in the army or an army trial would wind up punished with something like this?
I would imagine yes that's the case, yes. And I suppose it wouldn't be too far off for people to remember, and maybe grandparents even scared their children with it or what not, and then they this generation. Or if you're playing an older character you might remember seeing someone with it. And it's not unlikely they still do it out in the far flung parts of the kingdom.