The British monarchy doesn’t have the power it did centuries ago, but they make up for it by just how much the Queen technically owns. All sorts of old laws that were never repealed give the Queen claims to enough things that it almost sounds like a parody. Among the things owned by Queen Elizabeth are all dolphins in the United Kingdom.

This dominion over dolphins goes back to the reign of Edward II in 1324. A statue proclaimed that the throne had the right to every whale and sturgeon in the kingdom. These were dubbed “royal fish,” and if someone were to catch one, it would have to go to the king. Over time, dolphins and other porpoises were added as well. Now, you might notice that only one of these “royal fish” is actually a fish, and yeah, just roll with it. 

Today, the statute is still in place and gives the Crown rights to all royal fish caught within three miles of the U.K. This doesn’t mean that any poor dolphin swimming around England immediately gets fished out and taken as property of the monarchy, though. Besides, dolphins don’t hang out too close to the U.K. these days.

טל שמע/Wiki Commons

These royal fish may not really be fish, but they do look royal!

If a fisherman did happen to legally catch a royal fish, though, what would happen? Well, they would have to literally call the Receiver of Wreck (which is, in fact, a real British government position) and ask if they could keep it.

It’s not some long-forgotten rule either, as it has popped up relatively recently for a law that’s nearly 700 years old. There are no recent stories of dolphins at the center of any legal disputes, but in 2004, a man faced an investigation over a sturgeon that he caught in Wales. In accordance with the rules, the man asked permission from the Crown to keep the royal fish. He was allowed to keep the sturgeon, but he may have violated other laws by selling it. 

British rules are weird. And because they’re weird, the Queen technically owns any dolphin, whale, and every other royal “fish” in the U.K.

Top Image: Joel Rouse/ Ministry of Defence, Wiki Commons/טל שמע

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