40 Unusual Laws in History

A whale depicted in the Ashmole Bestiary, England, early 13th century. Bestiary.ca

39. All beached whales in the UK have belonged to the king or queen since 1324

Here’s another strange one from our friend Edward II. In 1324, he passed a law defining whales, sturgeons, dolphins, and porpoises caught within 5km of the shore ‘royal fish’. This one came from pure greed. The ‘royal fish’ fetched lots of money on medieval markets, and the wealthy coveted them for their banquets. A healthy market for whale oil also existed. Edward simply didn’t fancy sharing them with his people. The law has never been repealed, and still applies today. In 2004, a fisherman caught a 10-foot sturgeon near Wales, and had to ask Queen Elizabeth’s permission to sell it.