Jonathan Mirsky

Animals Before the Fall

Leviathan, or The Whale

By

Fourth Estate 448pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

When Prince Charles eventually becomes king, during ‘the most sacred part of the ceremony’ he will be anointed on his head, heart, shoulders, hands and elbows with ‘ambraegrisiae 3iiij’, a fragrant amber-coloured oil. Charles, a keen ecologist, will know this as ambergris, which comes from whales. That might worry him a bit. What may cause him more concern is that this nearly priceless substance (used by French parfumiers like Chanel, Dior and Givenchy), is actually extracted from, to use Philip Hoare’s exact words, ‘whale shit’.

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