Prince George can rest easy – and so can his parents, who would have had a lot of explaining to do to a rather disappointed little boy.
Malta performed an abrupt U-turn on Tuesday, saying it would no longer ask for the return of an ancient shark’s tooth that Sir David Attenborough had given as a present to the young royal.
The veteran naturalist found the 23 million-year-old megalodon tooth during a family holiday in Malta in the 1960s and had had it in his possession ever since.
At the weekend, during a private screening for the royal family of his new documentary at Kensington Palace, he presented it to a clearly delighted Prince George as a present.
Malta’s culture minister, Jose Herrera, got wind of the gift and announced that he wanted the tooth brought back and displayed in a local museum.
But the declaration set off a firestorm of ridicule and condemnation, with many Maltese accusing the government of getting its priorities wrong.
"Further to the initial remarks as reported in the Maltese media, minister Herrera would like to reiterate that no action was initiated or will be taken on the issue in question," said a spokeswoman for the minister. The matter will not be pursued any further.
Malta has been mired in allegations of corruption and skullduggery for years, ever since Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who fearlessly took on the country’s elite, was blown up by a car bomb near her home in 2017.
“We have lost the plot,” said Roberta Metsola, an MEP with the opposition Nationalist Party. “Rather than fight to get back the millions it allowed to be stolen in corruption, this government’s priority is now to engage in a battle with a little boy for a shark’s tooth given to him by the world’s leading natural historian.
“Just when you think there is no possible way this government could do anything more that will further damage Malta’s international reputation or make us look like a laughing stock.”
Matthew Caruana Galizia, one of the murdered journalist’s sons, also accused the government of being distracted from much more important issues.
“A megalodon tooth costs €40 on eBay. Corruption has cost us billions of euros. I ask my government to prioritise and please get a grip on what's important."
A Maltese woman wrote on Twitter: “We want that tooth back but we’re toothless when it comes to those who have stolen billions from Maltese citizens. Shame on you.”
Even the prime minister got involved in the row. “We should avoid creating unnecessary controversies", said Robert Abela, whose predecessor, Joseph Muscat, stepped down in January amid street protests and allegations that he had not done enough to uncover the truth behind the journalist’s assassination.
The tooth found by Sir David, 94, belonged to a megalodon, an extinct species of shark that could grow up to 58ft long, three times the size of modern great white sharks.
Their name, a compound of Greek words, means “giant tooth” and they are considered to be the largest fish ever to have lived. An apex predator, megalodons hunted whales, fish and seals.