The Duke of Cambridge’s call for a complete ban on ivory trading would harm Britain’s ‘indispensable’ collection of historical treasures, leading experts warned.


Alisha Rouse, Daily Mail

Date Published

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The British Museum – itself the holder of dozens of priceless ivory artefacts – along with historian David Starkey, have opposed the Duke’s plans.

Under current laws, only ivory products made after 1947 are illegal.

But Prince William is calling for an outright ban, regardless of age, meaning even ancient ivory artefacts would be outlawed.

A patron of anti-ivory charity Tusk, the Duke’s views are said to be so strong that he would like to see all the ivory in the Royal Collection ‘destroyed’.

Mr Starkey called the plan ‘cultural vandalism’, amid fears the move would damage Britain’s heritage.

He told the Antiques Trade Gazette: ‘By trying to preserve one wondrous, rare and elegant thing, the elephant, we are in danger of threatening other wondrous, rare and elegant objects.

‘If these objects cease to be tradable they lose their value and will end up being destroyed. This is one of the largest threats to the preservation of Western decorative arts. It would be cultural vandalism’.

A public consolation on the ban will go ahead in the next few months.

Art and antiques dealer Philip Mould joined the cohort of experts opposing Prince William’s plans, saying it threatens ‘thousands of years of culture and history’.

He said: ‘As an active conservationist, nothing could be more welcome to me than an initiative to save one of our most charismatic animals from a relentless road to extinction.

‘A ban on the heinous trade in poached ivory should not mean that a thousand years of culture and history be outlawed with it.

‘The thought that, say, some of our most emotive miniature portraits of Nelson, Byron and the young Queen Victoria become persona non grata – artworks of shame for which there is no market – is up there with book-burning and recent cultural vengeance meted out on the buildings of ancient Syria.’

The British Museum said that while it supports efforts to protect elephants and curb the illegal ivory trade, this should not include antique ivory.

A spokesman said: ‘Ivory artefacts are integral parts of the collection and play an indispensable part in the museum’s presentation of the history of human cultural achievement.’

The Victoria and Albert museum also said that while it does not actively seek modern ivory, it too may acquire ivory objects from before 1947.

The British Museum’s ivory collection includes the chronometer used on board HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s historic expedition in 1831.

It also has the 3,000-year-old Nimrud Ivories, the finest collection carved, decorative ivories ever excavated in the Middle East.

The collection is made of nearly 1,000 items dating from between the 9th-7th centuries BC.