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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

‘Raj era’ ivory framed gong removed from UK royal exhibition

A 19th century gong framed by ivory was removed from a royal exhibition in the UK after it emerged that its display would breach laws.

world Updated: Apr 25, 2017 19:56 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
The antique ivory gong which has been removed from an exhibition at Sandringham House amid claims that it is being displayed illegally.
The antique ivory gong which has been removed from an exhibition at Sandringham House amid claims that it is being displayed illegally.(East Anglia News Service)

An antique gong framed by ivory has been removed from a royal exhibition to mark 70 years of India’s independence after it emerged that its display would breach strict laws and offend Prince Charles and Prince William, who campaign for a ban on ivory trade.

The exhibition – being held at the sylvan royal country retreat in Sandringham, Norfolk, 180 km northeast of London – runs till October and features a range of gifts given over the centuries to the royal family in colonial India.

The gong, which hangs between two elephant tusks, was given to Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandfather in the late 19th century and then used to announce royal dinners. The exhibition also includes objects such as an intricately carved ivory box and a clock cabinet.

The gong was removed from the exhibition that is drawing many visitors after experts pointed out the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Act bans the display of un-worked ivory for commercial gain. There is an entry fee for the exhibition.

A Sandringham spokesman said: “It is our understanding that items on display at the Sandringham Estate comply with all existing regulation. However, in any case where there is a genuine doubt, the relevant specimen will be removed from display.”

Charlie Mayhew, chief executive of wildlife conservation charity Tusk, said: “It seems an eminently sensible move. They are showing a lead on this. If there is any doubt, then it shouldn’t be traded or displayed.”

Prince Charles and Prince William (a Tusk trustee) have been at the forefront of an international campaign to ban ivory trade, and the ruling Conservative Party has made the ban a promise in its last two manifestos.

Prince William hit the headlines in February 2014, when he reportedly remarked that he would “like to see all the ivory owned by Buckingham Palace destroyed”.

A royal spokesperson told Hindustan Times: “All members of the royal family have united around a single, shared purpose – to put a stop to the illegal killing and trafficking of some of the world’s most iconic and endangered species.”

One of the ivory items from colonial India in royal possession (not displayed at the exhibition) is an exquisite throne gifted by the Maharaja of Travancore to Queen Victoria in 1851. It has rarely been seen in public since it was first displayed at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

It is already illegal to sell post-1947 ivory in Britain, but antique dealers reportedly exploit the difficulty of determining the age of an item. Under new rules to be announced, dealers will be told to prove the age of items using carbon dating or face having them confiscated and destroyed.

First Published: Apr 25, 2017 19:56 IST

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