Charles’ sartorial choices as he gave his speech at the COP28 eco-summit in Dubai has set tongues wagging – with the King wearing a tie emblazoned with fluttering Greek flags amid a diplomatic spat between the Mediterranean country and Britain.
He took to the stage at the climate conference to make an urgent plea for nations to work together to combat climate change ahead of 2050 – the year by which the UK, among other countries, has committed to net-zero carbon emissions.
But suggestions have been made that the King appeared to make an altogether different plea for international co-operation with his choice of tie, stitched with a pattern of Greek flags fluttering in the wind.
Charles was also pictured wearing the tie whilst in conversation with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – who days ago snubbed a meeting with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the Elgin Marbles.
The Greek press seized upon his fashion choices, claiming that it could be interpreted as a ‘gesture of support’ for the country in its decades-long war of words over the artefacts, which were taken from Athens more than 200 years ago.
King Charles III at the opening of COP28 in Dubai on Friday, wearing his distinctive tie patterned with fluttering Greek flags
Charles used his COP28 address to flex his well-established environmental credentials
He was later pictured, still wearing the Greek tie, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who snubbed a meeting with his Greek equivalent amid a row over the Elgin Marbles
The tie is stitched with patterns of fluttering Greek flags – which could be a nod to his Greek father, Prince Philip
Charles wore the same tie on Horse Guards parade last week to welcome the South Korean President to Britain
Online news website the Greek City Times wrote: ‘Just a few days after the uproar caused in Great Britain and Greece by Rishi Sunak’s unfair treatment of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, King Charles III appeared to take a stand by choosing an obvious message, perhaps much stronger than any statement.’
Daily newspaper Kathimerini noted: ‘The king’s sartorial choice of a Greek-themed tie was widely commented on.’
However, it is understood the tie the King was wearing is simply one of his ‘current collection’. He wore it on Horse Guards Parade last week to welcome the South Korean President, prior to any recent news stories about Greece.
It may have also been a nod to his own heritage: Charles is half-Greek and his father, Prince Philip, was born at Mon Repos on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921.
His ensemble also included a pocket square in light blue and white, but in a different pattern.
The Elgin Marbles are chunks of the Parthenon in Athens that were removed by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and brought back to the UK in the 19th century.
A Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry in 1816 found the acquisition of the Marbles had been entirely legal and done with permission of Ottoman authorities.
Mr Sunak cancelled a meeting with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis last week after the European leader said he would be raising the issue of the Marbles.
But the meeting was never confirmed by Downing Street and the PM’s spokesman accused Greece of breaking a promise not to raise the Marbles row in public.
Greece, however, remains noisy in its view that the sculptures should be back in Athens.
Mr Mitsotakis told the BBC that the UK retaining the Marbles was a form of cultural vandalism akin to ‘cutting the Mona Lisa in half’.
And a Greek newspaper has raged at Mr Sunak for refusing to discuss the future of the sculptures. The Eleftheri Ora front page declared: ‘F*** You B******!’.
Suggestions have been made in the past that the British Museum could lend the Marbles back to Athens.
The PM has stressed any deal to loan the Elgin Marbles back to Athens must come with Greek acceptance that Britain is the legal owner.
In a warning to ex-Tory chancellor George Osborne, now chairman of the British Museum’s board of trustees, the PM said: ‘Our view and our position on that is crystal clear: the marbles were acquired legally at the time.’
However, public support for retaining the Marbles is not strong. A YouGov poll of 2,871 British adults on November 28 found that only 15 per cent of people support keeping them in the country.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says the UK’s retention of the Elgin Marbles is akin to ‘cutting the Mona Lisa in half’
The Elgin Marbles were taken from the Parthenon in Athens (pictured) in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin. A parliamentary inquiry found they had been acquired legally
The British-owned pieces of the Elgin Marbles can be viewed at the British Museum in London
The relative majority of those polled, 49 per cent, supported returning the artifacts to Greece.
Charles’ COP28 address gave the King an opportunity to flex his well-established environmental credentials as he addressed global powers.
He said: ‘I pray with all my heart that Cop28 will be another critical turning point towards genuine transformational action at a time when, already, as scientists have been warning for so long, we are seeing alarming tipping points being reached.
‘The dangers are no longer distant risks. I have seen across the Commonwealth, and beyond, countless communities which are unable to withstand repeated shocks, whose lives and livelihoods are laid waste by climate change.
‘Surely, real action is required to stem the growing toll of its most vulnerable victims.
‘After all, ladies and gentlemen, in 2050 our grandchildren won’t be asking what we said, they will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn’t do.’
COP28 began on Thursday and runs until December 12, with the UK Government pledging £1.6billion for international climate change projects throughout the summit.