There But For the Grace of God

I was watching an episode of the British television programme Time Team the other night, wherein they excavated – sort of – the remains of the ginormous medieval warship the Grace Dieu, which caught fire, fell over, and sank into the swamp in 1439. (Struck by a bolt of lightning, supposedly.)

Quite aside from its enormous size, the Grace Dieu – whose name means, in Latin, “Grace of God”, of course – is perhaps best remembered for never having gone anywhere. It made one abortive effort to set sail in 1420, which was curtailed by a mutiny, and spent the next nineteen years tied up at dock, going nowhere.

While John Bradford is generally considered to have popularized the phrase “There but for the grace of God” circa 1553, I kind of wonder if the phrase might have had a slightly snarkier use a hundred years earlier, in reference to the Grace Dieu. (Yes, I tried teh Google.) Probably not, but I’d still be interested in hearing any cunning linguist’s thoughts on the matter…

Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on August 13th, 2009| 2 Comments »

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2 Comments

  1. On 8/14/2009 at 4:05 am Moggy Said:

    Reminds me of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasa_(ship).
    200 years after the Grace Dieu, this ship sailed a grand total of 2km before sinking, still in the harbor.

  2. On 8/17/2009 at 10:49 am Craig Said:

    The name is French, roughly meaning “thanks be to God”. “By the grace of god” is “Dei gratia” in Latin.