Showing results 1 - 12 of 101 for the tag: London.

November 14, 2014

Neil MacGregor on the Parthenon Marbles – Greece responds

Posted at 11:40 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Following Kwame Opoku’s reponse to British Museum Director Neil MacGregor’s recent comments on the Parthenon Marbles, the Greek Ministry of Culture have also forwarded me their own response, highlighting the many inaccuracies & inconsistencies in MacGregor’s interview.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture (by email)

Response to comments made by Neil MacGregor in an interview in the Times on 7th November

1. UNESCO, which has invited the Greek and the British Governments to take part in a mediation process to resolve the issue, is an intergovernmental organization. However, the Trustees of the British Museum are not part of the British government. It is the Trustees and not the Government that own the great cultural collections of the country.

UNESCO is indeed an intergovernmental organization. It is hard to believe that a Government would discuss an issue it does not have competence on. It is hard to believe that if there were political will from the UK for the return of the Marbles to Greece the BM would resist this will. Negotiations conducted all those years with the good services of UNESCO were between the two States (Greece and the UK). Yet, a BM representative was always there. In any case the links at all levels between the BM and the UK Government are well known. Returns have already been effected in Britain on the basis of changes in the law such as the enactment of the Human Tissue Act 2004. This Act enabled the return of human remains located in UK museum collections (under the same status as the one applying to the Marbles). Those were unethically removed from Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Maori and Native Americans and were returned to their countries of origin. In this light persistence in formalities can only be used as an evasion of the real issue.
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Lord Elgin – enlightened liberator or avaricious looter?

Posted at 11:26 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

The heightened interest in the Parthenon Marbles following the visit by a team of lawyers to Athens has prompted many recent articles on the subject.

Here, Vicky Pryce & Dominic Selwood argue the cases on opposite sides of the restitution debate.

Remember to vote in the poll on the website at the top of the original article.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

From:
Prospect

Duel: should we return the Elgin marbles?
Did Lord Elgin liberate or steal these priceless historic artefacts? Our panellists battle it out
by Vicky Pryce, Dominic Selwood / November 13, 2014
Published in December 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine

About authors

Vicky Pryce (Yes)
Vicky Pryce is a Greek economist and former joint head of the UK’s Government Economic Service

Dominic Selwood (No)
Dominic Selwood is a historian and barrister

Yes
At the beginning of the 19th century, Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin, was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which occupied Greece. He entered the Parthenon in Athens and documented the sculptures, making moulds and casts. He bribed Turkish officials to allow him to engage in daily excavations before removing a large part of the marbles to Britain. Bribing occupying powers to purloin national treasures is not the sort of behaviour usually deemed worthy of a British Ambassador.

The looting that happened during the Second World War has, on the whole, been made good. No one accepts the right of those who occupied half of Europe to walk off with the revered relics of those subjugated nations in the 20th century. So why was it acceptable to do so in the 19th century?

Britain missed a trick by failing to hand the marbles back during the 2012 Olympic Games, which would have been a spectacular gesture. That it did not is a sad reflection on the enfeebled spirit of philhellenism in Britain. Lord Byron, who died in Greece after travelling to fight in its war of independence, condemned the cultural vandalism of his fellow peer, Elgin. But today there are no Lord Byrons in Britain willing to raise their voice.

The marbles might be great emissaries for Greece in the British Museum, but the fact remains that much damage was inflicted on the structure in the process of extracting the pieces that were taken away. They were brought here in dubious circumstances for the personal satisfaction of an individual who then sold stolen goods to the government.

And the name itself jars. Let us never forget the late Melina Mercouri, the actress and former Greek Minister of Culture. Speaking in an Oxford Union debate in 1986 she said:

“…And the Parthenon marbles they are. There are no such things as the Elgin marbles.

There is a Michelangelo David.

There is a Da Vinci Last Supper.

There is a Praxitelles Hermes.

There is a Turner Fishermen at Sea.

There are no Elgin marbles!”

no
The Greek government has never sued for the Parthenon sculptures in court because it knows Elgin did not “loot” or “purloin” anything. He acquired them legally, and saved them for the world. In the next best thing to a judge’s ruling, the world’s leading legal expert on art and cultural property, John Merryman of Stanford University, has stated that the modern Republic of Greece has no legal, moral or ethical claim to the sculptures. This may come as a shock to many people, but that is because they have never been told the actual story.

Elgin was a profound lover of classical art. When he was appointed British Ambassador to the Ottoman “Sublime Porte,” he personally paid for artists to take casts and make paintings of the sculptures so he could share them with a wider European public. However, once in Athens, Elgin saw that the Ottomans (who had ruled Greece for 350 years), were allowing the sculptures to be broken up for sale to tourists, used for rifle target practice, and ground down to sell for the lime. Appalled, Elgin applied to the Ottoman authorities (the lawful—and only—government of Greece at the time), and obtained a firman, or permit, to remove the sculptures.

Elgin spent around £70,000 on the rescue (including salvaging every last piece of sculpture from a ship that sank). In modern terms this is many tens—perhaps hundreds—of millions of pounds. However, Elgin accepted £35,000 from parliament for them as he wanted the sculptures to go into the British Museum, even though other buyers offered him far more. It all left Elgin with a gargantuan debt that took his estate almost a century to clear.

So, rather than baselessly maligning Elgin, we should be thanking him. Without his personal intervention there would be no amazing sculptures—just the pollution-wrecked, blurry stones that were only recently brought indoors in Athens. Fortunately the world still has Elgin’s original casts to see what the sculptures he left behind once looked like.

Accordingly, whatever people decide should happen to the sculptures today, it is an outright fabrication to cast Elgin as a looting, bribing vandal.

yes
Much depends on what you perceive to be “legal.” The Ottomans were an occupying power against whom the Greeks, with the help of many nations and individuals such as Byron, rose up to reclaim their land just 10 years later. That gives the purchase of the marbles no legitimacy.

The legitimacy of the “permit” obtained by Elgin, which in his view authorised the removal, was hotly debated when he brought the statues to Britain, as it only survives in translation. At best it talks about taking “some stones” back—not a wholesale destruction of the Parthenon. The reason for his action is also dubious. If there was urgent need to protect the Parthenon from attack, why not take it all? And if indeed it was threatened, how come whatever Elgin left behind, still spectacular though bereft of many parts, has survived more or less intact since the Greek revolution that pushed the Turks out?

Britain is a far-sighted nation. Opinion polls suggest that those who believe the marbles should be returned far exceed those who don’t. Here, the sculptures are kept in a dark uninviting room in the British Museum in London, not in their natural habitat. The new archaeological museum in Athens is the most magnificent state of the art building at the foot of the Acropolis. The original statues are in rooms facing the Parthenon, so that they blend with the replica casts outside to give a spectacular view and enhance understanding of the importance of what was created by the ancient Greeks.

Twenty-two million visitors came to Greece last year, many of those drawn by the country’s historical significance. They also come for the weather. Seeing the Acropolis and the Parthenon where the marbles belong in bright sunshine under blue skies takes your breath away. As Mercouri pointed out, 95 per cent of Greeks will never see the missing Parthenon marbles in their lifetime. It makes no sense.

no
The reason so many people believe the Parthenon sculptures should be returned to Greece is that activists dishonestly keep telling everyone that Elgin stole them. He quite plainly had full permission to take them. The Acropolis was a military base with restricted access back then. Hundreds of local workmen laboured for years to take down the sculptures in broad daylight, transport them to Piraeus, then load them onto ships—all under the eyes of the authorities. Looking at all the evidence, no judge would convict Elgin of theft.

You say the purchase has no legitimacy because the Ottomans were an occupying power. But that is not how the world works. Greece is not the only country to have been conquered (the ancient Greeks, you will recall, were pretty good at conquering themselves). The Ottomans ran Greece for nearly 400 years from the mid-1400s. Are you saying that throughout that period every governmental decision was invalid until Prince Otto of Bavaria became King of Greece in 1832? As you can guess from the name, he was not Greek either. Hundreds of countries have suffered conquest: borders move, peoples shift. When Elgin saw the destruction of the Parthenon and wanted to save its sculptures, who do you say he should have asked?

It is also not correct to say that the sculptures he left survived “more or less intact.” They are in a dreadful condition—pitifully damaged by acid rain and pollution. Many were not brought indoors until the 1990s. Some are still on the Parthenon. The only reason some exhibits in the Acropolis Museum look so good is because Elgin’s original casts were used to inspire models and significant restoration work. It is true that the British Museum used abrasive restoration techniques in the 1930s (along with the rest of the world, including Greece), but the damage was insignificant compared with the degradation caused by exposure to 20th-century pollution in Athens.

yes
What belongs together should be together. Imagine if English people had to see St Paul’s without its dome or only half of Stonehenge. The marbles don’t make sense out of their natural setting.

For more than 2,000 years, the Parthenon and its marbles withstood the weather, invasions and wars, and stood as a symbol of the values that created what we now know as Euro-Atlantic civilisation. Then an Englishman extracted them and buried them in a building in London.

I do not dispute that borders move over the centuries; that occupying powers come and go; that the world changes. But Greece is still there; the Hellenes have not been expatriated or evicted; and the Parthenon stands where it stood.

There was no legitimacy in the Ottoman occupation, and there was even less in taking from an enslaved nation the stones that personified its history. But debating the morality, legality or motives of a British diplomat accredited to an occupying power can fill pages. And the idea that possession is all that matters is asymmetrical and unworthy.

Today, great nations know how to make good and offer restitution for what happened in the past. In 1863, Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston, invented gunboat diplomacy when he sent the Royal Navy to bombard Athens in a show of imperial power. Britain no longer has an empire but it has the chance to prove it is great again by returning the marbles to their legitimate owners.

no
This debate cannot be argued with flattering distractions about Britain’s magnanimity. This is a serious question about the world’s museums and what they should hold. For example, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens has a large collection of Egyptian antiquities. Should these be returned? Or are museums allowed to acquire pieces legitimately for exhibition to the public? Ultimately, in terms of provenance, there is nothing that puts the Parthenon sculptures into a special category.

I agree that the new Acropolis Museum is stunning. I also believe that an exhibition there of all the Parthenon sculptures, reunited, bathed (through glass) in Athenian light, would be magnificent for all lovers of classical Greece. I would be the first to buy my ticket. But Greece has flatly refused the British Museum’s offer to loan them the sculptures. So where does that leave things?

What needs to change is the language of the debate. The world should be able to discuss these wonderful sculptures without half-truths, nationalist emotion or false accusations against Elgin, whose courage and love of art saved them. When he arrived, the Parthenon was a roofless wreck: gutted and defaced by the Greek Church and blown up in 1687. Without Elgin, there would likely have been no realisation in Ottoman Athens that the Parthenon’s remaining decoration (about half) was unique, and the chances are that there would now be nothing left at all.

October 26, 2014

Greece considers Parthenon Marbles strategy

Posted at 10:57 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the recent visit to Athens by a team of three lawyers from the UK to discuss options for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

From:
Greek Reporter

Alamuddin-Clooney Concludes Greece Visit on Positive Note
by Philip Chrysopoulos – Oct 16, 2014

This afternoon, Amal Alamuddin-Clooney leaves Greece following a three-day visit to Athens in which she counseled the Greek government on the proper legal route for reclaiming the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

The 36-year-old lawyer – along with cultural heritage lawyers Norman Palmer and Geoffrey Robertson, as well as David Hill, chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles – met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Minister of Culture Kostas Tasoulas to discuss the repatriation of the Marbles, an issue of long-standing discord between the Greek and British governments. According to witnesses, discussions between the legal team and the Greek government ended on an optimistic note.
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September 5, 2014

The Elgin Marbles – Looted or Rescued?

Posted at 4:57 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events

A lecture by Alan Read at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (with a somewhat controversial choice of title) looks at how the significance of the Parthenon Marbles has changed over time.

From:
Dulwich Picture Gallery

The Elgin Marbles: looted or rescued?

The Parthenon sculptures have been the subject of controversy since their creation 2,500 years ago. How did a Scottish aristocrat acquire the very best of them, and how did the British Museum buy them in 1816? This lecture celebrates their magnificence, and examines how their significance has changed, from decorations on an ancient temple to disputed cultural objects in the present day. Lecturer: Alan Read

Date: 18 November 2014, 7pm
Price: £12 / £10 Friends (includes a glass of wine)

August 12, 2014

Encasing the Parthenon Marbles in sand as bomb protection considered during first World War

Posted at 8:00 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Newly released information reveals that one of the way that the British Museum considerd protecting the Parthenon Marbles during the First World War was to fill the room where they were housed with sand. The idea was ditched, because of worries that the walls of the room would not be able to hold the weight of the sand. In the end, the sculptures were instead protected with sandbags in the gallers.

Not that many years later, in the Second World War, when the risk of bombing was far greater, they were instead transferred to disused London Underground tunnels for safety.

Parthenon Marbles being removed from the London Underground in 1948

Parthenon Marbles being removed from the London Underground in 1948

From:
Art Newspaper

British Museum’s battle on the home front during the First World War
Archive reveals how air raids threatened the collection and King George V intervened to stop the building being requisitioned
By Martin Bailey. Museums, Issue 259, July-August 2014
Published online: 30 July 2014

The British Museum’s curator of Oriental prints and drawings wrote what became one of most famous war poems in the English language. Laurence Binyon penned the lines of “For the Fallen” in September 1914 that are inscribed on thousands of memorials: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old / Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn / At the going down of the sun and in the morning / We will remember them.”

Binyon volunteered for military service in 1915. He told the museum’s director: “I know I am not the best material [he was 45], but it does seem as if every man would be wanted before the end.” Binyon worked as a hospital orderly in eastern France in 1916.
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July 29, 2014

Are the British Museum planning on moving the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 1:07 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Various news articles give the impression that the British Museum will be moving some parts of the Parthenon Sculptures for an exhibition on ancient Greece taking place next year.

While the sculptures will not be leaving the museum at all during this process, it raises a couple of interesting points.

Firstly, the British Museum regularly makes the point that the sculptures can be seen free of charge in London – highlighting the fact that an admission fee is charged by the Acropolis Museum. However, large temporary exhibitions at the British Museum are never free – so you will no longer be able to see all the sculptures there for free while the exhibition is on.

Secondly, it has often been suggested in the past, that the sculptures are too valuable & fragile to be moved – that any handling might damage them. The fact that the British Museum is happy to move them around within the building shows that to move them to a more distant location would clearly be possible.

One assumes that Greece will probably be lending some sculptures to this exhibition. They should think long and hard so though, as to how they can also use their acto of generousity to highlight the British Msueum’s duplicity in this issue.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Daily Telegraph

Elgin Marbles moved for first time in over half a century
British Museum to move the Elgin Marbles for the first time since their installation in 1962 as plans announced for blockbuster exhibition on ancient Greece
By Anita Singh, Arts and Entertainment Editor
3:53PM BST 02 Jul 2014

The Elgin Marbles are to leave their current home at the British Museum. Unfortunately for those who believe the treasures should be returned to Greece, they are not going very far.

The marbles are being relocated from one part of the museum to another – the first time they have been moved in over half a century.
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April 2, 2014

Unfortunately, the previous post on UNESCO mediation was not accurate

Posted at 12:01 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

As many may have spotted, yesterday was April 1st. As a result of this, some of the items I posted, may not have been entirely accurate.

Much as I (and many others) want the British Government & British Museum to enter into the UNESCO mediation process, thus far, there has been nothing except silence from them.

I should also note that Pillory Dour & Henna Biltong are entirely fictional characters, and that any resemblance of them to people working for the British Government & British Museum is entirely coincidental.

So, to make the previous post become reality, more needs to be done to encourage the Government to accept the mediation request. At the moment, they are ignoring it, because they feel comfortable taking this course of action. So, write to your MP, raise awareness, publish stories publicising the lack of response, so that eventually they might feel more inclined to take action.

March 31, 2014

Half of looted Sevso Silver returns to Hungary

Posted at 5:50 pm in Similar cases

It appears that China isn’t the only country that has decided that buying disputed artefacts back is sometimes the simplest way to re-acquire them following looting.

In this instance, it is the Sevso Silver, fourteen items which Hungary claims were looted, but were sold to private buyers during the 1980s. The treasure constitutes fourteen items in total. This purchase re-acquires seven of them for €15 million, from undisclosed sellers.

My earlier reservations still stand, as do those presented previously by Kwame Opoku.

Sevso treasure in 1990

Sevso treasure in 1990

From:
Guardian

Sevso treasure items repatriated by Hungarian government after UK sale
The Roman silver, discovered in Hungary in the 1970s, was bought from an ‘unidentified London seller’ for €15m
Dalya Alberge
Thursday 27 March 2014 17.51 GMT

The Hungarian government has repatriated seven of the 14 pieces from the Sevso treasure, a spectacular hoard of 4th-century Roman silver whose ownership had long been contested by several countries.

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, announced this week that the pieces have been repatriated to Budapest in return for €15m, reportedly paid to unidentified sellers in London. The pieces include the so-called “Hunting Plate” and the “Dionysiac Ewer”.
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October 25, 2013

Lord Elgin, boxing & the art of re-imagining the Parthenon Sculptures as integrally British

Posted at 5:52 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

This article looks at a lot of interesting aspects in a period of the life of the Parthenon Sculptures that is often glossed over. After they first arrived in Britain, some time elapsed before they were finally purchased by the British government. As this article explains, during this time, Elgin did everything he could to try & raise the profile of them & hype them up (after declaring them as of “little or no value” for customs purposes.

I am not sure about some of the conclusions however – I don’t know whether anyone really believed that they were taking the Marbles for their protection. This was more a justification that was post rationalised, because it sounded so much more palatable to the public, than the reality of taking them to decorate a house. Later, the same argument appealed to the British Museum, when in reality, they were most interested in adding a significant work to their collection & thus stopping anyone else from getting it.

View of Parthenon Frieze by Alma Tadema

View of Parthenon Frieze by Alma Tadema

From:
Open Democracy

The Parthenon Marbles and British national identity
Fiona Rose-Greenland 25 October 2013

Today, the British Museum’s Trustees argue that the Parthenon sculptures are “integral to the Museum’s purpose as a world museum telling the story of human cultural achievement.” But what does history tell us?

This article is part of an occasional series on ‘The Political Aesthetics of Power and Protest,’ the subject of a one-day workshop held at the University of Warwick in September, 2012. Democracy, since it does not function through command or coercion, requires instead a constant renewal of sets of symbols – symbols which appeal to people and instill in them a sense of belonging and identification. Increasing disenchantment and disillusion with the state, with political institutions, their practices and performance, makes it more important to explore the place of this aestheticisation of political language, the aesthetics of protest as well as of power.

But most the modern Pict’s ignoble boast,
To rive what Goth, and Turk, and Time hath spared:
Cold as the crags upon his native coast,
His mind as barren and his heart as hard,
Is he whose head conceived, whose hand prepared,
Aught to displace Athena’s poor remains:
Her sons too weak the sacred shrine to guard,
Yet felt some portion of their mother’s pains,
And never knew, till then, the weight of Despot’s chains. (XII)

Cold is the heart, fair Greece! that looks on thee,
Nor feels as lovers o’er the dust they loved;
Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatched thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorr’d! (XV)

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Second Canto (1812)

What is happening with the Parthenon sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles and widely lauded as the jewel in the crown of the British Museum?

When the new Acropolis Museum opened in Athens in June 2009, the British Museum faced unprecedented pressure to return the sculptures to Greece. Intellectuals, elected officials, and ordinary citizens weighed in, with public opinion apparently in favour of giving them back. It looked as though Museum officials might finally relent. The issue was back on the public agenda in June 2012, in a repatriation debate between Stephen Fry and MP Tristram Hunt, and again this month in a speech by Henry Porter in which he urged that returning the sculptures would be the right thing to do.
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June 18, 2013

Look but don’t touch doesn’t seem to apply at the British Museum

Posted at 4:33 pm in British Museum

This is a very long time since the original article, because something someone said on twitter just jogged my memory about this story.

Back in 2005, the Daily Telegraph ran a story about damage sustained by the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum. At the time I contacted them with some images that I had taken during a previous visit to the museum. Initially they were interested in using these as the basis for a followup article, but subsequently the idea got dropped.

Anyway – during a visit to the British Museum, I was astounded to see how openly people were touching / stroking / grabbing / climbing on ancient artefacts, although the staff who were in the room seemed to be oblivious to it. In many ways, this is in stark contrast to the sometimes rather overzealous staff at some Greek museums who will blow whistles & shout to you the moment it looks like you might be able to do something that crosses the line between viewer & artefact. That said, however annoying they appear to be sometimes, they are doing a good job of protecting priceless ancient artefacts from further damage wherever possible.

The British Museum has said that it has a policy that artefacts must not be touched, but little effort is taken to enforce this.

What this all boils down to, is the assertions by the museum in the past that they are looking after disputed items such as the Elgin Marbles well, yet from what we can see, the opposite often seems to be the case.

The photos were taken as still from a video camera – hence the relatively poor quality. The original pictures are from late 2004 – but subsequent visits to the museum have confirmed that there is little real change in the situation depicted in them.

March 7, 2013

The Elgin Marbles & why they should be returned to Athens

Posted at 8:55 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

This article gives quite a convenient summary of what the Parthenon Marbles are & some of the key issues surrounding the case.

From:
Live Science

Elgin Marbles & the Parthenon
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 14 January 2013 Time: 04:33 PM ET

The Elgin Marbles, sometimes referred to as the Parthenon sculptures, are a collection of marble sculptures that originally adorned the top of the exterior of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, and are now in London, England.

They are currently exhibited, free to the public, in the Duveen Gallery in the British Museum. Although today the sculptures appear white, originally they were painted in vivid colors, something that new research is revealing.
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March 4, 2013

British recalcitrance over returning the Kohinoor

Posted at 9:23 am in Similar cases

More coverage of proposals for the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond to India, following British Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks during his visit to India.

From:
India America Today

British Recalcitrance on Restoring Kohinoor to India
Article | February 28, 2013 – 10:06am | By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

San Francisco – On February 20, 2013, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron placed a wreath at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial in Amritsar thereby becoming the first serving British prime minister to voice regret about one of the British Raj’s bloodiest atrocities in India, entailing the massacre of unarmed civilians in the city of Amritsar in 1919.

On the downside, Cameron rejected any possibility of Britain returning the 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond, embedded in the British Queen’s crown and on display in the Tower of London.
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