A cat may look at a king

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A cat may look at a king is an English proverb that means even someone of low status has rights. A cat may look at a king implies that all people have certain minimal rights by virtue of being alive. Like many proverbs, the origin is unknown. The first printed version of the idiom a cat may look at a king was published in 1562, in The Proverbs And Epigrams Of John Heywood, “What, a cat may look on a king, ye know!”  It is almost certain that the proverb existed in oral tradition long before it was written down. A cat may look at a king is a proverb that is not as popular as it was in the past, perhaps because inalienable human rights are more recognized in the present time, or perhaps because the power of kings is not what it once was.


In the 10 years since it was published, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (story) and Axel Scheffler (pictures) has become a much-loved classic, proving that big furry creatures who roar can be kind at heart, and a mouse may look at a monster, just as a cat may look at a king. (The Independent)

And it is the culture of newspapers – at worst being beholden to some megalomaniac proprietor, but never to the institutions of the state – which fosters a “cat-may-look-at-a-king” arrogance that underpins important freedoms, and is part of our history as a nation. (The Guardian)

Yet a cat may look at a king, and sometimes a historian can challenge an economist. (The Financial Times)

Well, a cat may look at a king and it requires no mastery of economics to see the contradictions in the Rangers’ chairman’s claim that defeat by Kaunas in the Champions League qualifiers had been “a disaster”. (The Telegraph)

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