Last night I watched a documentary on National Geographic TV - ELIZABETH I: KILLER QUEEN (actually, it was a recording). The basis of the programme was that QEI was possibly in love with Robert Dudley, and that Dudley's wife, Amy Robsart, was assassinated, in order that he would be free to marry the Queen It was an intriguing, if not wholly convincing, premise. But that’s all by-the-by.
It was all acceptable until one of the the history bods insisted on using a cliché that not only do I hate, but also makes no sense. Boldly, he pronounced that the murder of Amy “... changed the course of history: forever.” Shock. Horror. Drama.
But think about it: “changed the course of history ” is bad enough, but the addition of “forever” makes it totally ridiculous.
If we accept that it is possible to change the course of history, one must accept that
- events throughout history and, indeed, the future, follow a preordained course, but that it is possible to alter that course (the latter tends to contradict the former), or
- time travel is possible, and someone can go backwards through time to alter events that have already taken place.
If you believe in destiny and/or time travel, stop reading now, otherwise, continue.
History is everything that has already happened. It follows no course: what becomes history is influenced by the actions of everyone and everything existent at the relevant time. Once these actions occur, what is left is a historical fact. Once that fact exists, it cannot be altered. Also, it is not possible to alter a fact before it becomes one: all we can do is influence what becomes a fact. It is, for instance, a fact that I misspelled RELEVANT, above, and had to alter it. I changed the spelling, not the fact that I misspelled it in the first place.
That which is a fact will remain a fact: forever. The addition of the word “forever” to the old cliché is redundant – once a fact, always a fact. It will always be a fact that misspelled RELEVANT.
How does anything “alter the course of history”? If Amy Robsart was murdered, it set a course of events that have now become historical facts. It didn't alter the course of history, because history had not yet happened! And if the time travel bit were feasible, any alteration would already have happened so would already be enshrined in fact (unless you start theorising about alternative dimensions, universes, time streams, etc) .
And while I'm at it, what about that other hackneyed cliché, "He has his whole future ahead of him." COME ON, PEOPLE! Where else would his future be: in his past?
Here endeth the rant. Perhaps my mate Rathbone Kydd could alter things ...