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It was an act of conservation, without parallel at the time.

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At first nobody said anything about taking antiquities, but Hamilton found it hard to ignore the reality that Turkish forces then occupying Athens were harming some of the finest works of art in the world.The chaplain to the British embassy in Constantinople, Dr Philip Hunt, was appalled and persuaded his boss to ask the Turks for permission to transport the marbles to Britain.That and a talent for rearing pedigree Aberdeen Angus bulls have generated enough revenue to keep Broomhall out of the hands of the National Trust. Until the Scottish Executive passed its Land Reform Act, granting public access to private estates, he popped up occasionally in the letters pages of The Scotsman questioning the legitimacy of such reform.For a man whose ancestors include Scotland's medieval hero king, Robert the Bruce, a governor general of Canada, two viceroys of India and a founding father of the Royal Society, Lord Elgin is an ostensibly low-profile character. He landed on the D-Day beaches days after the initial assault as a 20-year-old officer in a tank unit of the 3rd Battalion of the Scots Guards.This would allow his Lordship to build fashionable copies when he returned to Scotland.

Elgin delegated the task to his secretary, an energetic young man called William Hamilton.

Lord Elgin's request was made at an opportune moment.

Horatio Nelson had just fought and won the Battle of the Nile, and British influence in the eastern Mediterranean was at its apogee.

That’s news, whether your interest is religion or science.

At Broomhall House, ancestral home of the Earls of Elgin, ancient Greek stelae or grave markers adorn the walls.

The only surviving version of the document is in Italian.