Gowon Gave Original 1600-yrs-old Oba Of Benin Bronze Head To Queen Elizabeth II In 1973 |RN

From left to right: Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, Mrs Yakubu Gowon,HRM Queen Elizabeth II, Former military head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon

By Nigel Reynolds

Buckingham Palace has been forced to concede that what it believed was a replica of a rare Benin bronze head, given to the Queen 30 years ago as a diplomatic gift, is, in fact, the genuine article “liberated” from Nigeria’s main museum in strange circumstances.
When General Yakubu Gowon, President of Nigeria, made a state visit to Britain in 1973 his officials told the Palace that he intended to present the Queen with a modern copy of one of the country’s famous Benin antiquities.
But, according to an investigation by the Art Newspaper, a specialist British publication, Gen Gowon, in fact, removed a genuine bronze head, about 12in high and dated around 1600, from the National Museum in Lagos as his gift.

Anxious to thank Britain for its support during the Biafran war, Gen Gowon initially asked one of his regional military governors to commission a replica bronze.

But he was disappointed with the result.

Professor John Picton, a British expert who was deputy director of the antiquities department at Lagos museum in the 1970s, said that Gen Gowon telephoned Ekpo Eyo, head of the department, on a Saturday to say that he was coming round that morning to choose a gift for the Queen.
“Dr Eyo hurried to the museum and managed to remove a few of the finest and unique items and put them in the store,” Prof Picton, who now works at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, says in this month’s edition of the Art Newspaper.

“General Gowon soon arrived. He looked around and took one of the bronzes from the display.

“Dr Eyo was horrified because it was quite improper for the state to be raiding the museum. Dr Eyo also realised that it would weaken Nigeria’s position in the debate over the repatriation of the Benin bronzes.”
Prof Picton also said that the gift made a mockery of Nigeria’s export regulations since a licence would never have been granted by the antiquities department for such an important item.

The provenance of the Queen’s gift came to light when an expert from the Art Newspaper recently saw the head displayed in a new exhibition at Buckingham Palace of state gifts given to the Queen during her reign.
Believing that the head was not a copy he called in Prof Picton and Dr Nigel Barley, another expert from the British Museum, with Buckingham Palace’s approval.

Both confirmed it as authentic, dating it to around 1600 and identifying it as a piece that would have stood on an altar in the palace of the Oba (king) of Benin for about 300 years.

By a strange twist, the head was probably in this country before. In 1897, a British Punitive Expedition looted the Oba’s palace and many bronzes found their way back to this country.

In the 1950s, some of the bronzes were returned to help set up the National Museum in Lagos. Nigeria was still a colony and it was the Colonial Office in London that bought bronzes on the open market in this country.
Nigeria is pressing for further bronzes, including some in the British Museum, to be returned. The Art Newspaper says that the case for restitution will be weakened by the discovery of the true nature of the former president’s gift.

Frances Dunkels of the Royal Collection described the head yesterday as “very beautiful” and said that she accepted the experts’ finding.
She said that there were no plans to return it to Lagos and that there had been no overtures from the Nigerian authorities.

She said: “At the time it was presented to us as a modern copy and there was no reason to doubt that. It was a state gift.”

Pressed on whether there was a moral obligation to hand it back, she said: “I don’t think that one can form an opinion.” (The Guardian)

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Queen Elizabeth II Drove A Jaguar Home From Church, Went Viral Online


Maeve McDermott
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 24: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II drives her Jaguar car to The Credit Suisse Royal Windsor Cup Final at Guards Polo Club on June 24, 2007 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Ben Stansall/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Queen Elizabeth II ORG XMIT: 74810282 GTY ID: 10282MG005_The_Credit_Su© Ben Stansall, Getty Images WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 24: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II drives her Jaguar car to The Credit Suisse Royal Windsor Cup Final at Guards Polo Club on June 24, 2007 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Ben…
Queen Elizabeth II is the only person in the United Kingdom allowed to drive without a license, and she’s not giving up that privilege anytime soon.

When she’s not serving as the mother of her country, the Queen loves driving, often taking her family for spins in her Range Rover. And on Sunday, the 91-year-old great-grandmother was spotted in her green Jaguar, taking a spin after attending church services in Windsor.

The Internet deemed the photo instantly iconic.

The Queen may be a noted car aficionado, but her solo outings may become more frequent. Last Thursday, Buckingham Palace announced that her husband, Prince Phillip, 95, will no longer carry out his public role starting this fall, though the Queen will continue to attend her full program of official engagements.

“I can’t stand up much longer,” Phillip joked at a public appearance Thursday when an onlooker expressed sadness at his decision to “stand down.”

Elizabeth first learned how to drive during WWII, serving as a mechanic for the U.K’s Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, and she is the only person in the country who doesn’t legally need a license or official plates behind the wheel.         (USA TODAY)

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