The King wore a tie depicting the Greek flag as he appeared at the COP28 climate summit following a diplomatic row over the Elgin Marbles.
The monarch, whose late father Prince Philip was born a prince of Greece, paired the accessory with a handkerchief also in blue and white – the country’s national colours – in Dubai today.
His sartorial statement comes after a row between Rishi Sunak and Athens after the prime minister cancelled a meeting with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the historic marbles, also known as the Parthenon sculptures.
Downing Street said the talks had only been agreed on the basis the Greeks would not publicly lobby for the return of the ancient artefacts, on display and owned by the British Museum, during Mr Mitsotakis’s visit to the UK.
But Greece denied promising not to raise the issue on the trip.
Mr Sunak seemed not to mind the King’s clothing choice, which could be interpreted as an attempt to cool diplomatic tensions.
He posted a picture of himself with the monarch on X, formerly known as Twitter, praising him for having been “at the forefront of the fight to protect our planet” for more than 60 years.
Why did the King wear a Greek tie?
The King knew the world would be watching this speech.
British diplomats were also aware.
So when the King dons a tie depicting the Greek flag, just days after a war of words over the Parthenon marbles, many eyebrows were raised.
But was it a sartorial statement with some significance?
It’s been seen in Greece as a sign of support, but was that support a personal or a political gesture?
The King has of course strong family links to Greece. His father, Prince Philip, was born into the Greek (and Danish) royal family.
It could of course just be a favourite tie. The King hates waste and is often seen re-wearing clothes he’s had for a while.
Or maybe Whitehall diplomats saw an opportunity to use the so-called soft power of the King to make a signal to Athens. It’s impossible to say. But Greek media is interpreting the tie positively.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first-time royal outfits have made a wider statement.
Kate wore Ukrainian blue when she played the piano at the opening of the Eurovision Song Contest.
And the late Queen famously wore an outfit in the blue and yellow of Ukraine when she opened an underground line in 2022.
We’ve had no comment from the palace about the King’s choice of tie.
But questions about a tie are definitely easier to consider than recent headlines about the King.
Mr Sunak separately denied throwing a “hissy fit” by scrapping the meeting with the Greek prime minister, in reference to comments made by George Osborne, the former chancellor-turned-chairman of the British Museum.
Mr Osborne said the row would not stop long-running talks on an exchange deal to allow the Elgin Marbles to be displayed in Greece on loan.
Asked whether the former senior Tory was right, Mr Sunak told journalists: “No, no. I think I’ve said everything I’ve got to say on this in Parliament the other day and now I’m focused on delivering for people on the things they care about.”
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The King will be hoping his attendance at COP28, and perhaps his tie, will shift the attention from the controversy raging at home.
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The King may simply have been paying tribute to his Greek ancestry – the late Duke of Edinburgh was born on the island of Corfu in 1921.
Philip was exiled from Greece with his family when he was just 18 months old when a military coup overthrew his uncle, King Constantine I.
On a visit to Athens in 2021 just weeks before the duke died, the now King said the country of his father’s birth had “long held the most special place in my heart”.
Buckingham Palace said the tie was “simply one of his current collection”, which the King had worn during the state visit of South Korea president Yoon Suk Yeol, prior to the Elgin Marbles row.