What English king received a polar bear as a gift in 1252?
Kings often displayed their power and wealth to one another by giving lavish/slightly ridiculous gifts. This included, but was not limited to statues, trees, and animals. Henry III received “a white bear” (believed to be a polar bear) from King Haakon of Norway in 1252. The bear was considered one of the luckiest animals in the castle. It was given a leash so long that it could swim in the river Thames and catch fish. It was not, however, the largest animal gift Henry III received. King Louis IX of France gave him a male African elephant in 1255. A monk who went to see the animal said; “the people flocked to see the novel sight…The beast is about ten years old, possessing a rough hide rather than fur, has small eyes at the top of its head, and eats and drinks with a trunk.”