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Lord Elgin’s great great great grandson on the Marbles

One of Lord Elgin’s descendants has written this short piece about the Marbles. He seems to stick to the post-rationalised agenda of his ancestor, that the sculptures were only removed for their own preservation, before reverting to the often repeated argument that return can’t happen because it would set a precedent.

Setting aside whether or not a precedent would be set, I continue to find it disturbing that the fact that one might have to do the right thing again in the future is used as a feeble justification for not doing the right thing today – if something needs to be done, it needs to be done – if you keep hanging onto this reasoning, everything else will end up going back first, before the precedent argument is abandoned to be replaced by some other equally spurious one.

Sky News [1]

MPs Pushing Elgin’s Marbles Back To Greece
Alastair Bruce
January 8, 2009 11:29 PM

Two MPs championing the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece this year, to mark the opening of a new museum at the ancient Acropolis in Athens, have sent letters out this week to all their fellow legislators recruiting Parliamentary support.

My interest in this is because the marbles were brought back to Britain from Athens by my Great Great Great Grandfather, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, at the start of the 19th century. He was passionate about antiquities and wanted to preserve them from the destruction they faced, at a time when war and local indifference was grinding away at the edifice.

But the process broke him and he was forced to sell them to the Government in 1816. They were put into the British Museum and have been there ever since – owned by us all, in trust for the world.

Eddie O’Hara (MP for Knowsley South) and Andrew George (MP for St Ives), who are part of Marbles Reunited, have put down an Early Day Motion, which is a sort of mood barometer on Parliament, to see if there is a will to do this.

If Britain repatriates the Elgin Marbles, it will not be long before every country in the world puts in claims for items displayed in the British Museum to be returned. Museums in London, New York and elsewhere might face a mass repatriation from the precedent.

My family have little influence in this debate but we would be sad if the Elgin Marbles left. It is interesting that almost the first pronounced decision of Tony Blair’s government in 1997 was that the Elgin Marbles would not be going back to Greece.