Cultural diplomacy and the Dumfries House visit

Cultural diplomacy and the Dumfries House visit

It is always important news when the Greek prime minister meets with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had the opportunity to visit Dumfries House in Scotland and witness first-hand the amazing work that has been undertaken there by The Prince’s Trust, a charity founded in 1976 by Prince Charles. Unfortunately, party squabbles and rather forgotten episodes from Greece’s modern history prevailed over the substance and importance of this visit.

There are two cardinal conclusions to be induced from Mitsotakis’ visit to Dumfries House: On a more general level, once again, it was proven that Prince Charles is a sincere friend of Greece, the home country of his father, as he often calls it. And on a more specific level, it was showcased how cultural diplomacy and cooperation between countries can bring about great results. And this happens when the agenda is positive and constructive. Understood in this context, the Dumfries House case study is indeed critical for the future of the Tatoi Estate in Greece.

Dumfries House, a stunning estate and 18th century manor house, is quite unique. It is one of Britain’s most picturesque stately homes, set in 2,000 acres of land, and one of the most important collections of Georgian Scottish and English furniture in the country. The House remained a family home from 1760 to 1993, when the last full-time occupant, Lady Eileen, Dowager Marchioness of Bute, passed away. Then, in July 2007, the House’s future appeared to be in jeopardy but was saved through a consortium led by the Prince of Wales that purchased the house and contents. Since then, it has remained open and free to the public 365 days a year with numerous events taking place in its premises.

Now, imagine how the neglected and up-until-recently forgotten Tatoi Estate can be revived and transformed when the Greek government follows through with its plans and incorporates elements of The Prince’s Trust’s work in Dumfries. Recall that it was Prince Charles who invited Mitsotakis to visit Dumfries House after he had expressed a keen interest in Tatoi, when he had paid a visit to Greece in March 2021 on occasion of the centennial of the Greek War of Independence. Tatoi, a 10,000-acre estate, can be really invigorated and host education, environmental and cultural events and be visited by school children every year. Undoubtedly, the expertise provided to the Greek prime minister at this week’s meeting will prove crucial in the enactment of the Tatoi plan.

One last note: Greece and the United Kingdom share historical ties that go back centuries, with the role of culture being paramount in the development of this strategic partnership. In the Greece-UK Strategic Bilateral Framework, signed in 2021, the need “to expand and strengthen bilateral cooperation in education and culture” is highlighted. And this week’s cultural visit is exactly what the future needs, paving the way for further cooperation in this field. Overall, in this there are mutual benefits to be gained by both countries, beacons of European culture.

Ioannes P. Chountis is a political affairs adviser at the Hellenic Parliament and a PhD candidate at the University of Aberdeen.

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