Monday, 19 Oct 2020

Prince George row: Royal fans force Malta into ’embarrassing’ U-turn after bizarre demand

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George was gifted a megalodon tooth by naturalist Sir David Attenborough this week, sparking cries for the fossil to be returned to the site of its discovery. But after pressure from Maltese peopel and royal fans, a spokesman for Malta’s government backtracked on the demand made by Culture Minister José Herrera. 

Mr Herrera had said he wanted to “get the ball rolling” and see the 23-million-year-old fossil returned to Malta.

The demand sparked a huge backlash in Malta and among royal fans online.

One Twitter user, Maja, said after publishing listing of shark teeth from online markets selling for approximately £50: “Well Malta, you can start from these sellers.”

A royal fan, answering to a Twitter user saying it is illegal in Canada to remove fossils found in public spaces, said: “In Malta in the 1960s and even now, that thing doesn’t exist. 

“And the tooth doesn’t belong to Malta!

“It belongs to shark, after his death, Sir David found it and made it his”.

Malta eventually backed down and said the gift could remain with George.

The spokesman said: “The minister would like to note that with reference to this case, it is not the intention to pursue this matter any further.”  

The ministry added Malta already has an extensive collection of historic artefacts showcased in various museums and heritage sites across the island.

However, he added, there are numerous other pieces originally belonging to Malta which are currently scattered around the world – much like Prince George’s giant shark tooth.

He continued: “As a nation, we are extremely fond of our history and hence through our national heritage agencies we are always actively looking at avenues to acquire artefacts that have intrinsic value to the Maltese islands.”

Mr Herrera’s comment had drawn a backlash in Malta, with many argued the country had more important issues to focus on than a single item missing for decades. 

Among the critics of Mr Herrera’s remarks was journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

He wrote on Twitter: “A megalodon tooth costs $40 on eBay.

“Corruption has cost us billions of euros.

“I ask my government to prioritise and please get a grip on what’s important.” 

Royal fans reacted to the U-turn with amusement to the U-turn.

Twitter user Mariposa wrote: “How embarrassing for Malta. You aren’t going to live this down anytime soon.”

Joemartin added: “Finally they saw some sense but not after making a fool of us to the whole world!

“This could have been avoided Minister.”

And Mimi added: “Someone had a word with him”.

Prince George was given the ancient tooth last week when Sir David visited Kensington Palace to watch a preview screening of his latest film with Prince William. 

The megalodon tooth was found by Sir David by chance while he was on a holiday with his family in the late 1960s.

Kensington Palace wrote on Instagram: “Sir David found the tooth on a family holiday to Malta in the late 1960s, embedded in the island’s soft yellow limestone which was laid down during the Miocene period some 23 million years ago.”

Two days later, Mr Herrera said: “There are some artefacts that are important to Maltese natural heritage and which ended up abroad and deserve to be retrieved.”

Prince George, much like his siblings Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, is a fan of the naturalist, as revealed by Kate during a previous engagement with Sir David.

During the naming ceremony of a boat named after the naturalist, the Duchess of Cambridge was heard saying: “The children were very upset that we were coming to see you and they weren’t coming, they’re massive fans of yours.”  

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