The Story Behind Queen Elizabeth’s Response to Philhellene’s Plea for Return of Parthenon Sculptures

In August 2019, an Australian campaigner wrote a letter to Buckingham Palace, asking for Queen Elizabeth’s intervention so that the Parthenon Sculptures could one day return to their home in Athens.

Mary Drost, who has been awarded the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia, wrote a letter to the Queen. In the letter she said: ”Your Majesty, I speak on behalf of the Greek community in Melbourne, which calls on you to intervene for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece, where they belong.”

Drost also mentioned the Greek origins of Prince Philip, Elizabeth’s husband, who once was the Prince of Greece and Denmark.

But Drost did not act for herself.

Earlier this year, prominent Melbourne Greek Australian Steve Karakitsos approached Mrs. Drost, who is an active citizen in promoting community affairs, and briefed her about the efforts Greeks around the world have been doing to repatriate the Parthenon Sculptures, that were transferred from Ottoman-occupied Athens in the early 1800s to London by Lord Elgin.

Drost agreed with Karakitsos and coordinated their next steps so that an official letter could reach Buckingham Palace.

20 days after the letter arrived in the Palace, on August 21, the Queen, through a Palace official, responded to Drost’s request.

”The Queen has asked me to thank you for your letter. Her Majesty has carefully taken into account your views on the “Elgin” Marbles. I must explain, however, that, as a constitutional monarch, the queen acts on the advice of her ministers and remains strictly neutral on political matters. Therefore, what you are asking for, the return of the sculptures is not an issue in which Her Majesty could intervene.”

Although the letter looks at first negative to the request, as the Queen has to remain neutral in political matters, it seems to have achieved what its intention was in the first place:

Publicize the issue even further, and raise it to the highest level possible.

Greeks around the world, as well as exceptional personalities from across the cultural and political spectrum across the world, have been campaigning for the sculptures to return to Greece, where they were created nearly 2,500 years ago.