Now Malta says they won’t ‘pursue’ the matter of David Attenborough’s tooth fossil

cambridge atten

Before we dive back into the Fossil Drama, should we spend a second talking about the Duchess of Cambridge’s dress? It’s now widely believed that Kate spent much of her lockdown shopping on the internet and buying tons of prairie dresses, Sister Wife dresses and other dated looks. We’ve seen a steady stream of new dresses in Kate’s Zoom calls and in recent events. When Kate and the children spent time with Sir David Attenborough last week, Kate again debuted a new dress: this is the denim “Marley” dress by Gabriela Hearst. It’s crafted from “repurposed denim,” which in theory should mean that it’s eco-conscious design. All of which is fine. But I balked at the price tag: this dress retails for $1,590!! You’re going to drop $1600 on a denim dress for one measly photo-op?? I guess so.

As for the Fossil Drama, here’s the recap: Prince William apparently invited Sir David Attenborough over to Kensington Palace so that the older gentleman could screen his new Netflix documentary for William (and apparently William alone). At some point during the visit, Kate brought the children out to speak to Sir David, and David presented Prince George with a gift: a fossilized tooth of a shark relative, a piece of bone which is likely around millions of years old? Attenborough found it in Malta in the 1960s. Kensington Palace quickly squawked with delight about the gift to the young boy who will one day be king. And by talking about the gift, they drew attention to the fact that… oh right, this is a fossil from Malta and Attenborough had no business smuggling it out of the country. So the Maltese culture minister was like “actually we want that back.” Well, now the Maltese government is trying to soften this whole story.

The Maltese culture minister, José Herrera, reportedly pledged to investigate if the tooth should, in fact, be returned for display on the island where it was originally excavated. Asked by the Times of Malta whether there were plans to add the tooth to the nation’s heritage collection, Herrera said he would “get the ball rolling”.

“There are some artefacts that are important to Maltese natural heritage, which ended up abroad and deserve to be retrieved,” he said. “We rightly give a lot of attention to historical and artistic artefacts. However, it is not always the case with our natural history. I am determined to direct a change,” the paper quoted him saying.

Fossils fall under the definition of cultural heritage as a “movable or immovable object of geological importance” and, in line with the provisions of the Cultural Heritage Act 2002, their removal or excavation is now expressly forbidden, the Times of Malta reported.

Late on Monday, however, Malta’s culture ministry appeared to row back from the threat to Prince George’s keepsake. A spokesperson said: “The minister’s initial comments were based on the related national legislation in particular the Cultural Heritage Act, 2002 which superseded the previous legislation being the Antiquities (Protection) Act of 1910 and the Antiquities (Protection) Act of 1925. The minister would like to note that with reference to this case, it is not the intention to pursue this matter any further.”

Kensington Palace declined to comment on the issue.

The British royal family has long faced calls for the repatriation of a number of famous items, many the product of looting and plunder by explorers or soldiers over centuries or acquired through colonisation. These include the famous diamond, the Koh-i-noor (Mountain of Light), reportedly worth more than £100m, and the star piece in the crown worn by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on the coronation of George VI, and again at the Queen’s 1953 coronation. It currently forms part of the crown jewels.

[From The Guardian]

The Koh-I-Noor absolutely, 100% needs to go back to India. Just send it back, for the love of Vishnu. It belongs in an Indian museum. As for the fossil gifted to Prince George… it sounds like some powerful people in the Maltese government got some calls from the British Foreign Office. I wonder what threats or promises were made. All so a young prince could keep a fossil which he never had any business being given. To be clear, it’s not George’s fault. He’s just a kid and he accepted a gift. But William knows better and so does David Attenborough. It’s 2020 and the days where white British dudes could just waltz out of countries with fossils and antiquities are OVER.

cambridge atten2

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Birkenhead

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Kensington Palace.

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73 Responses to “Now Malta says they won’t ‘pursue’ the matter of David Attenborough’s tooth fossil”

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  1. CidyKitty(CidySmiley) says:

    I mean, David absolutely should know better but I don’t know why there is blame on William. He had no reason to believe that it hadn’t been a gift to David first, like he probably didn’t interrogate him about where and how he got it and if he got permission. There is a lot of things I will throw shade to William about but this isn’t one of them.

    They should still give it back, it would be a good teaching moment for the kids and possibly lead the way for younger royals to give back some of the things that don’t belong to them or were looted.

    • Nic919 says:

      Who was behind the PR to promote this gift? Someone at KP screwed up because Malta wouldn’t have even known about this if KP wasn’t bragging about the gift to a future future future king nonsense.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      “Sir David Attenborough over to Kensington Palace so that the older gentleman could screen his new Netflix documentary for William (and apparently William alone).”

      To me this is the real story. Why would Sir David Attenborough be screening a film at KP for William and William alone. I find this very weird especially as they herded the children out for a photo-op.

      Maybe the fossil was originally meant for William and not George but given to George to get a great (in the minds of Kensington Palace worthless PR people) photo-op.

    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      My comment isn’t specifically about whether Attenborough had a “right” to gift the fossil. But just generally, WHY do the royals accept any personal gifts at all? I’m not talking about Christmas gifts from family members, I’m talking about gifts that are clearly designed to curry favor/kiss their royal @sses. Isn’t that just another form of grifting, of using their royal positions for personal gain? They should NOT be accepting personal gifts, it is abuse of their public position.

      As for Attenborough, shame on him. The royals are already incredibly rich and privileged. You could make a gift to a museum, or to a charity, or to some poor kid living in poverty, but you chose to give it to some rich, privileged, useless, royals?

      • Ainsley7 says:

        The Royals aren’t allowed to accept gifts under most circumstances. Most of what they receive on tours and such are all owned by the crown estate rather than the Royal personally. I’m not entirely sure, but I would guess that the tooth is now crown property rather than George’s privately. He’s an heir, so I’m not entirely sure how it works for him. I know that when others receive something, they are allowed to use it for their lifetime. It goes back to “the crown” when they die. The fossil will likely end up in a British museum.

  2. Becks1 says:

    The Maltese cultural minister 100% got a phone call from the UK government and was told to stand down on this issue. It’s so obvious. And maybe he was okay with that because there are more important artifacts/fossils that have been stolen by the UK, and because this was given to George, there was some sympathy there for him.

    But the optics of this are SO BAD and I cant believe neither Attenborough nor anyone at KP realized that. this just draws attention to all the other items that the UK has stolen throughout the years.

    • Nic919 says:

      This really got triggered by KP bragging about the gift. They are so out of touch because they did not see how offensive it is for a British guy to have taken something like that from another country and just given it to a child.

    • Seraphina says:

      Agreed. Just another hit that tips the scales to show how antiquated the monarchy is as an institution and as far as their belief system. Our first sign was Kate’s dresses….

    • Mac says:

      The catalog of Maltese artifacts in the British Museum is over 300 pages. I think they were trying to raise awareness with the tooth, but seeing as it’s neither rare nor valuable someone nixed the idea. I still think they should send it back to keep the conversation going.

      • Becks1 says:

        @Mac – your last sentence is exactly why they wont send it back. They don’t want to keep the conversation going.

    • Lizzie says:

      The only job of the courtiers and they fail again.

    • BeanieBean says:

      And in the case of Malta, illegal since 1910, so Attenborough digging this up in the early ’60s means he knew it was illegal (he’s a smart guy, of course he knew) & did it anyway. Give it back. Be an example.

  3. GG says:

    I love Sir David, but who shows up with a (deeply problematic) gift for only ONE child when there are THREE?

    • Nic919 says:

      I found that odd from the outset. There was nothing he could give Charlotte and Louis? It’s rude to only gift one child unless it is that child’s birthday.

    • TQ says:

      Future king gets all the perks I suppose, which just reinforces the whole royal family hierarchical bs.

    • Lemons says:

      Obviously only George is interested in boy things like science and fossils. Louis is too young to understand, and Charlotte….well, Charlotte’s a girl and he couldn’t find any dolls or Easy Bake Ovens on his way to the residence. Honestly…it’s not a big deal.

  4. Seraphina says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the statement: It’s 2020 and the days where white British dudes could just waltz out of countries with fossils and antiquities are OVER. Yes they most certainly are. And while they are at it they can also send back the Greek marbles.
    I have two close friends who are from India. I stated to them, a long time ago, wow the Indian government gave some beautiful jewels to Britain. They both replied: They were STOLEN, no one gave them.
    And maybe the original countries that are the owners can send them out on “loan” so the rest of the world can enjoy them. But they should all be returned.

    • MerryGirl says:

      And let’s not forget the South African Cullinan diamond in her broach – that very valuable price needs to be returned to Africa.

      • Seraphina says:

        @MerryGirl, the list is ENDLESS. The Greeks have been long upset about the marbles being returned and of course it falls on deaf ears.

      • Becks1 says:

        Its not just in her brooch. When you start googling the Cullinan diamond – its insane. There’s one in her crown and one in the scepter, and those are part of the crown jewels, but then Petty Betty personally owns something like 5 or 7 others (including the one in her brooch.) (wonder who she’ll leave them to in her will – Charles?) But its kind of insane to think about one white British woman owns some of the biggest diamonds in the world, that were taken from South Africa.

  5. NotSoSimpleTaylor says:

    The best fossil David could give away is himself. I mean it. But there wouldn’t be a generation of biologists without him and he’s done a lot of good for science.

    However, George is 7 and has just been given a pointy object so unless his parents put it away, he’s poking people with that tooth. Which is fine
    (especially if he messes with Kate’s filler job) but to quote Indiana Jones “This should be in a museum.”

    I can vomit and come up with a better design for that dress.

  6. Mia4s says:

    No I’d say demand it back. He’s a kid, he was bored of it an hour after he got it. And no time like the present for young royals to start learning that their hereditary titles come with a hefty history of violent colonialism and outright theft.

    Enough of this nonsense.

  7. blue36 says:

    I keep thinking “if this were the Sussexes” we would have seen headlines and talk TV shows berating them for this and then the “fair” Cambridge fans would be here criticizing them like they did before the Africa tour about the “optics” etc. But here we have the Cambridges, being protected from any criticism, first they had their people go to Conde Nast regarding Tatler and now this. Wow!

    • Nic919 says:

      Instead there were “fair” Cambridge trolls accusing people of blaming George, which no one ever did.

    • BabsORIG says:

      And don’t forget how prince Harry was criticised and bashed for his comments in regards to Great Britain’s colonial rule history, and just stating how the British need to address their past participation in colonization of POC. Yeah Britain AND their royals are just something else.

  8. Nancy says:

    Dress is probably the most hideous I’ve ever seen her wear, tbh. But also $1600 is nothing to these people.

  9. Elizabeth Regina says:

    Wave after wave of bad PR for the inhabitants of KP. Best of all, many people in the UK are beginning to question the usefulness of the inhabitants of our palaces. The gift was inappropriate and insensitive and it should never even have been broadcast. Karma is real. There’s lots more PR faux pas to come and I am here for it. #missceliescurse

    • Seraphina says:

      @ER, I was thinking the same – wave after wave. I often think we (the peons of the world) are informed of a great deal with technology these days. I wonder what when on throughout history and it was never made known. For example, I had a poli sci professor from Boston tell us JFK used to come into the newspapers HQs with women on each side, but they all had “gentlemen’s agreements” so it was never made public. In my old age, I am a Gen Xer, I truly believe these agreements were meant not to protect the rich and entitled, but to keeps us peons in our place. For if we really knew what went on behind the scenes it would be anarchy. Look at Martin Luther and the catalyst for starting the Reformation.

      • Merricat says:

        I agree with this. Technology and access to immediate information is playing a huge role in the fall of the monarchy.

  10. Nic919 says:

    I am waiting for all the Maltese archeologists to start posting their expert opinions on here about how the fossil isn’t an artefact. Also the ones saying that since Malta was a British colony at the time it was ok. Yes because colonialism is not an ongoing issue with the countries Britain plundered for hundreds of years. Or how you can get them on the internet so it’s ok. Did I cover all the troll farm talking points? The coordination of the same comments being made across twitter, and CB and other places was very interesting yesterday afternoon.

    Attenborough was in the wrong to do this and he should know better. The regulations around fossils are strict in basically every country and have been for some time. KP screwed up as well by publicizing the gift with glee and then making it an international incident where phone calls definitely happened.

    • Celebitchy says:

      That person claiming to be an “archeologist” yesterday was banned.

      • Sofia says:

        Wait, what did I miss?

      • Nic919 says:

        Oh I didn’t check the thread after that.
        @sofia, we had “archeologists” providing “expert” advice on the thread yesterday. Ignoring reference to all laws that exist in multiple countries about fossils and artefact retrieval.

    • BeanieBean says:

      If, for the purposes of Maltese law this tooth is a cultural ‘artefact’, then under the law it is. Yes, archaeology is about the human past & this is technically a paleontological find, not archaeological, but it doesn’t matter. Maltese law says otherwise. Plus, such finds have been protected under law in Malta since 1910, so it’s being part of the Empire is again neither here nor there. Send it back.

      • Nic919 says:

        Thanks for the update on the law. It actually makes Attenborough look even worse for taking it like that and then handing off to a young child.

  11. Sofia says:

    I agree. It’s not George’s fault and it’s not really William’s but Attenborough should have known better. Either give the gift in private to avoid backlash or don’t give it all. Not to mention, I find it really shitty that only one kid got a gift. Just starts the whole “heir vs spare” bullshit early on.

    • ArtHistorian says:

      It is shitty and rude to bring a gift to one child (the Heir) when there are 3 children – and then publicize the photos where only George is examining his gift while his siblings look on. Stunts like this create hurt feelings because they don’t really understand why there’s made such a difference. It is rude behaviour on Attenborough’s part and really shitty on the Cambridges’ part because they thought it a good idea to widely publicize that they are perfectly fine with people pointed treating their very young children differently solely because their eldest child will one day be King. It teaches Charlotte and Louis that their brother is more important than them, and while that is true constitutionally speaking, their parents should take extra pains to make sure that the younger children are just as important on a human level. There was absolutely no need to single out George at this young age.

      It is even worse in the BRF because there are literally generations worth of evidence and dysfunction that shows that the Heir vs Spare bullshit goes is allowed to infect the personal relationships between siblings. It is one thing to acknowledge differences in rank publicly between adult siblings. But blatantly favouring one child from early childhood over his/her siblings due to this hierarchy of rank is toxic and it creates dysfunction families and individuals. Other monarchies seem to manage this distinction between public façade and private family dynamic fairly well – but the British royals just let it shape the entire family’s psychological dynamic, probably because they don’t seem to value empathy as a human quality. There’s a reason that the Windsors have a reputation as a bunch of cold and emotionally constipated people who can’t even treat their close family members decently.

      • Seraphina says:

        And if they treat their own like that, imagine how the feel about the rest of society.

      • Sofia says:

        +1 @ArtHistorian. There’s nothing else I can add because you said it all and much better than I ever could.

      • Nic919 says:

        It is why the entire “can’t work much because of the kids” excuse is just that because it’s not good parenting to openly favour one child like that over the others all the time. Diana did her best to not do that to Harry, but I guess Kate isn’t smart enough to see how unfair that was for Louis and Charlotte. It’s basic parenting and she doesn’t get it. William in theory should get it too, but he’s clearly been ruined by generations of Windsor dysfunction. The Middletons were supposed to be a breath of fresh air and break this cycle, but Kate is enabling the same dangerous shit that the Windsors have done.

      • Becks1 says:

        @Nic – I think you or Nota pointed out the other day that Kate benefited from this dynamic too growing up. She was the oldest and the favorite (and the “most successful” in terms of reaching her mother’s goals). I’ve noticed that people tend to repeat family dynamics with their kids if they were the ones who benefited (for example my SIL favors her oldest child, which I think seems natural and normal to her because her parents favor her significantly over her brother, even though they are in their late 30s now.) So Kate is probably on board, even if its unconscious, with favoring George as the oldest – factor in that he’s the future king, which for her obviously means a great deal, and it just cements the whole “heir vs spare” dynamic for another generation.

    • Liza says:

      Yeah.. the fault lies with David. Appalling!
      Shows his hypocrisy… In one hand talking about conservation and in the other casually gifting a fossil. If this is the one we know about, how many we don’t?!
      Also it could have been a great PR moment for William had he offered to send it to Malta but I suppose the palace folks will not allow it. On 3 kids…maybe it was a group gift lol or maybe there were other non fossil gifts 😂

      • BeanieBean says:

        Remember when William said he wanted to burn all the ivory artifacts owned by the BRF? Remember how well that went over? Such is the ‘depth’ of his conservationism.

  12. My3cents says:

    If they send back all the ancient artifacts and fossils they looted, stole or plundered they would only have Philip left.

  13. S808 says:

    I’d still demand it back to set an example. It’s 2020 and you can’t take artifacts and present them to your kings and queens anymore. If they want to be seen as modern, make this a learning moment for George and give it back. Anyways, between this and overpopulation bullshit he buys into, I’m not feeling David.

    • Beach Dreams says:

      I’m surprised people aren’t more aware of Attenborough’s racist views on overpopulation. It’s been a red flag for years and he’s mentioned the issue in relation to African countries multiple times. It’s no wonder he and William get along so well.

    • bamaborn says:

      Don’t follow him, but, that whole picture reaks of “overpopulation.”

  14. Jane says:

    This story could have gone a completely different way. Wasn’t Kate meant to go to Malta for a short tour a few years ago, but she had to pull out because she was pregnant and ill? So she reschedules, takes George, they return the fossil, and the Cambridges get a load of good press for visiting the island, showing George publicly, and making a token gesture of returning a significant piece of another country’s cultural heritage that, unlike the Koh-I-Noor or the Parthenon Marbles, costs them nothing and no one on the British side of things really cares about.

    • Nic919 says:

      That would be a smart way to handle it but they are so far up their own assess they don’t see how anything wrong happened here.


    I love reading news about Malta! I spent six summers there when I was young and most people I’ve spoken to about it don’t seem to have heard of it or even know where it is. It’s a small but vibrant and beautiful place.

    Also I’m no Kate fan and I DESPISE prairie dresses but they’re actually in right now, so I wouldn’t call them dated.

  16. Mtec says:

    If the Cambridges want to look like they actually care about the environment and conservation, they should volunteer to give it back to Malta anyways. That would actually teach George a great lesson, instead of the one of favouritism they’re been practising.

  17. MF1 says:

    So basically the British government mobilized to protect William and George? This is a perfect example of how the monarchy has made William into an entitled, privileged, tone deaf person. It’s just a shame that it has already started its work on his kids, who deserve so much better than this.

  18. Mariane says:

    They definitely got a call from UK foreign office to back down. It’s a shame because they have every right to investigate this and ask for its return. I hope other countries use this opportunity to demand the return of their artifacts.
    If people had any doubt that UK press treats the keenbridges differently then the way this story was buried should be their proof. If this was the sussexs it would be running in every paper and being debated by the bitterwomen & GMB. I hate their hypocrisy. I’m glad Harry and Meghan are away from this mess

  19. V says:

    I am laughing at all the arm chair royal experts over here, delighted to find another reason to criticize the royals but who ignore the real abuses Malta is committing. They have legal loopholes that allow people to shoot thousands of endangered migratory birds! And oh yes, along with serious corruption, they kill and threaten their journalists! You guys want to pose as experts on the royals, archeology and human rights? Then please get your facts straight and tell the whole story. Your hypocrisy on this blog is unbelievable.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Ahh the famous both sides argument.

      Just because a country isn’t a perfect paradise, after surviving centuries of imperialist occupation, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the right to request return of stolen items.

      Which country meets your definition of a perfect paradise that deserves sovereignty? Let’s see. Would it be England . . . where journalists are poisoned in the middle of London and no one is ever arrested for it? Hmmm . . . let’s all think really hard to locate this mythical land of V’s imagination.

    • A Better V says:

      Imagine simping for a colonialist monarchy that has raped, murdered, and pillaged entire nations, people, and the planet itself while ignoring that the very issues you raise with the smaller, post-colonial state are both directly and indirectly tied to its colonialist history under that same monarchy, which has done absolutely fuck all for you and is passive in the face of similar offences within its own borders today.

      Can’t relate!

    • Becks1 says:

      How is it hypocritical? No one is saying “Malta is perfect and as such, they should get their stolen artifacts back.” No country is perfect and some are less perfect than others, but that’s not the point of this story.

    • Nic919 says:

      You can’t justify theft because there are other laws in the country you don’t like. You would be laughed out of court with stupidity like that. But what can we expect from sad little cambstans who feel the need to troll this issue even though it is Attenborough who actually made the biggest error. Clearly the stans understand this has bad optics or else they wouldn’t be trolling this thread and the one yesterday.

    • Lizzie says:

      That’s funny cause we are laughing at your weak attempt to justify this colossal blunder.

  20. MerryGirl says:

    Interesting how the UK government/Royals can intervene to protect the Cambridges from a potential diplomatic fallout but say nothing about a US President ‘dissing’ Meghan in a press conference. Hmmm.

    • bamaborn says:

      Well it’s “never complain, never explain” with these people till there’s a reason to always explain and complain.

  21. Le4Frimaire says:

    That was a weird story, got a bit of traction. Anyway, no more fossil gifts or gifts from Malta. The palace will do everything to protect the royals, with just 2 exceptions, as we know. Now I keep getting pop ups from National Geographic, go figure.

  22. Zaya says:

    It was super bad form to bring a present only for George.

    When I was younger, two of my cousins and I would spend our summers abroad visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. well, my two cousin’s birthdays are in June and mine is in December. One of my aunts always it was unfair that my two cousins would get gifts and I was left out, so she would give my present at the same time.