A few days ago, Athens-based newspaper Ta Nea circulated the first widely known documented reaction by Queen Elizabeth on the appeal for the Parthenon Marbles reunification, in response to a letter sent by Melbourne resident, Mary Drost OAM.
The news on its own is of significance, as despite the fact that the Buckingham palace correspondence indicates the Queen’s lack of jurisdiction to intervene in the matter, the royal response is considered an add-on to efforts of keeping the demand for he Marbles’ return to Greece fresh and in the public eye.
But this is not the full story. Importantly, the recent small ‘win’ for the reunification movement was spearheaded by a Melbourne Greek, Steve Karakitsos, who prompted Ms Drost’s correspondence with the Queen in the first place.
The initiative and the letter
It was a few months ago when Mr Karakitsos approached Ms Drost – an active citizen in community affairs updated on the Parthenon Marbles reunification request by several Greek friends – asking her to write to the Queen on behalf of Melbourne’s Greeks about the issue.
During a meeting – from when the featured picture was taken – Mr Karakitsos raised the issue of Ms Drost’s approach to the correspondence and a constructive discussion took place prior to Ms Drost acting on the request.
The Australian woman then sent her letter to the Queen on 1 August. “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.
Mr Karakitsos’ initiative, enacted by Ms Drost, appears to have paid fruit as a reply dated 21 August, was sent on behalf of the Queen, signed by official Jennie Vine MVO, Deputy Correspondence Coordinator at the palace.
“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.
“A great outcome”
According to Mr Karakitsos, this is a “great outcome”, considering that it is the first widely known written statement of the Queen on the matter, without appearing to be against the return, though stating the Queen’s inability to take any action, lacking jurisdiction.
“It is probably indicative that there needs to be more pressure exerted from Philhellenes or arts groups internationally in order to convince the British Museum to repatriate the sculptures,” the Greek Melburnian told Neos Kosmos.
Ms Drost’s take on the reply is equally positive: “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.”
Ms Drost visited London recently, where she met with Marlen Taffarello Godwin of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles and discussed co-organising a protest in the museum next year on the Parthenon Marbles return to Athens demand.
According to Neos Kosmos sources, Ms Dorst is expected to be featured in an upcoming Herald Sun edition, possibly Saturday, and photographed with the letter she received by Queen Elizabeth.