Police in the UK Can’t Search the Queen’s Estates for Looted Artwork

A 2017 law has a significant exemption

Good luck searching this house for looted art.
PJMarriott, CC BY 3.0

In 2017, the government of the United Kingdom passed the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act, which allowed law enforcement to search locations that might contain looted artwork. That’s entirely understandable, given the ongoing debate about art forcibly taken from other countries and held unjustly. But, as a new article at Hyperallergic points out, there’s one fairly substantial exception to that rule — and it involves a hereditary monarchy.

An investigation by David Pegg and Rob Evans at The Guardian offers more details about just how the Queen was able to get a personal exemption from this law — which means that the Queen’s estates are off-limits to searches for looted art.

The article quotes a letter sent from an unnamed official to Buckingham Palace in early 2016, as the law was being prepared. “Separately, we wish to ensure that the powers of part 4 of the bill are not exercisable in relation to Her Majesty’s private estates,” wrote the official.

It’s worth noting that the exemption applies specifically to the Queen’s private estates, rather than to the royal estates as a whole. The Guardian reports that the crown estate is considered fair game for police conducting searches for looted art. The entire article is well worth a read, and focuses on some of the processes by which these laws were shaped. And it certainly sounds like the next season of The Crown could go to some rather unexpected places, should the filmmakers desire.

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