An Australian woman who wrote to Queen Elizabeth requesting her to help return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece has received a reply from Buckingham Palace.
In the letter, obtained by Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper, a palace official said that the Queen had taken “careful note” of the request to return the 2,500-year-old sculptures that Lord Elgin removed from the Acropolis temple.
Mary Drost OAM of Melbourne wrote to Queen Elizabeth on 1 August, 2019, asking her to facilitate the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens “where they belong.”
“Your Majesty, I speak for the Greek community in Melbourne Australia. They appeal to you to arrange to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece where they belong. The Duke of Edinburgh, I am sure, would agree,” the letter reads.
The reply, written by a palace official, said: “Dear Mrs Drost, The Queen has asked me to thank you for your letter from which Her Majesty has taken careful note of the views you express regarding the Elgin Marbles.
“I must explain, however, that as a constitutional Sovereign, The Queen acts on the advice of her Ministers and remains strictly non-political at all times. This is, therefore, not a matter in which Her Majesty would intervene,” the official added.
The letter, sent on 21 August, 2019, was signed by Miss Jennie Vine, MVO, Deputy Correspondence Coordinator at the palace.
Mrs Drost, who has received the Order of Australia Medal, also sent a letter to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to facilitate the return of the Marbles.
“Dear Prime Minister, I speak for the Greek Community of Melbourne Australia and urgently request that you arrange for the Elgin Marbles that are now in the British Museum be returned to Greece where they belong,” the letter, sent on 9 August, reads.
“This issue causes great anger among those of Greek origin. The Marbles should never have been taken, people say they were stolen. It would certainly put your name up high if you undertook to send them back, in fact take them back yourself. Think of the wonderful publicity you would get worldwide. Please give this serious consideration”.
Mr Johnson has yet to reply.
Asked what made her send these letters, Mrs Drost told Ta Nea: “I feel for the Greeks and their desire to see the carvings back where they belong, so I decided to write to the Queen and the Prime Minister as they are the two most important people in the UK. I felt sure the Queen would be interested, as her husband has Greek roots”.
Mrs Drost visited the British Museum twice this August. “When I was in the museum talking to the guard, he told me that the Duke of Edinburgh had come to see the marbles and commented that they were really like an Ambassador for Greece.”
“I really don’t know what the Duke meant, but I guess ambassadors do eventually go home, don’t they?” said Mrs Drost, adding that the guard also told her that “he thought it might be just the sort of thing Prime Minister Boris Johnson might enjoy doing.”
When asked to comment on Queen Elizabeth’s response, Mrs Drost said: “The Queen of course could not do anything, it is not in her power, but the letter showed that she was certainly interested, as I am sure her husband is.”
Mrs Drost lives in Australia where she is “dedicated to protecting Melbourne from inappropriate and excessive development, serving as Convenor of Planning Backlash Inc, a coalition of 300 resident groups across city coast and country.”
She has several Greek friends who have alerted her to the Parthenon Marbles reunification request. “Melbourne is a city that has a large Greek community. Years ago there was a joke saying that Melbourne was the largest Greek city in the world after Athens. So of course I heard about the Parthenon Marbles or the ‘Elgin Marbles’ as they are known, as it was Lord Elgin who ‘stole’ them and brought them to London,” she said.
“I go each year to Europe and of course have been in Athens and heard the mourning over the loss of so much of the ancient carvings that were taken to London.”
While in London, Mrs Drost met with Marlen Taffarello Godwin of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. “We discussed setting up a big protest in the museum next year, demanding that the collection be returned to Athens,” she said.
- This news report was published in Ta Nea, Greece’s daily newspaper (www.tanea.gr) on 12 October 2019.