Wife's role in Clooney's 'marbles' plea

12 October 2014 - 00:08 By The Daily Telegraph, London
LOOT: Should Britain return the Elgin Marbles to Greece?
LOOT: Should Britain return the Elgin Marbles to Greece?

When George Clooney issued a plea for the Elgin Marbles to be returned to Greece earlier this year, his sudden intervention prompted surprise among many of his fans and consternation among British MPs opposed to his view.

Now it has emerged the actor's interest may have been prompted by his new wife's sympathy for the Greek cause.

Amal Alamuddin, 36, a barrister, has been quietly advising the Greek government on the issue and is due to fly out next week to discuss the matter with Antonis Samaras, the prime minister.

She will be part of a delegation led by Geoffrey Robertson, the human rights lawyer who is joint head of Doughty Street Chambers, where Alamuddin specialises in international and criminal law.

It is understood that the Greek government approached the chambers several years ago to seek help in its attempt to relocate the marbles from the British Museum. The classical marbles - officially known as the Parthenon sculptures - were taken from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century.

They were acquired by parliament in 1816 and since 1962 have been housed in the museum's Duveen Galleries. Prime Minister David Cameron has opposed calls for their return.

In February Clooney, 53, waded into the long-running row at a press conference for his film, The Monuments Men, in which an Allied team retrieved artworks looted by the Nazis.

Asked about the marbles by a Greek reporter, Clooney said: "I think you have a very good case to make about your artefacts."

He went on to say that returning the marbles would be a "very fair and very nice thing" and "the right thing to do".

He said that polling in England had shown a preference for returning the artefacts to Greece and called for an "open discussion" on the matter.

The British Museum insists there is a "public benefit" in the sculptures remaining part of their collection.