Ladies and Gentlemen,
My greetings to you all, and particularly to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and his wife. This is a special moment, and I find myself in a special situation. The story of how we got here is not as easy as it appears: while it eventually became clear that justice is on the side of the Polish people and that they are entitled to this cherished treasure, the truth is that it has also become an object of great affection for us. The international world of art treasures is a very complex one, with everyone insisting on keeping what is in their possession – whether or not it is really theirs. What complicated the situation even further was that in Hungary – and probably here in Poland – the best guardians of national treasures are museologists. They fight to protect everything forming part of their national culture, and are reluctant to yield a single small part of it. So within Hungary this debate was not an easy one, but finally we reached the collective conclusion that this is how it should be, and the armour should be returned to where it belongs. It came into our possession through a fortunate happenstance, or what we could describe as a fortunate misunderstanding: we believed that this armour had belonged to Louis II of Hungary, that it was ours, and we were not in possession of stolen treasure. But as time went by scholarship revealed this to be false, confirming that it was the child armour of King of Poland Sigismund II Augustus, and thus dashing the hopes of many historians and museologists.
You can rest assured that the origin of no other suit of armour has ever been studied more thoroughly than the origin of this one; and finally we Hungarians have bowed to the facts of history and justice, acknowledging that it belongs to you. And as the Prime Minister of Poland also sent us an official request, we made the only possible decision permitted by Polish-Hungarian friendship: the decision to return to you that which is yours. I am a lawyer by training. The law is clear, and since the emergence of Roman law the legal system’s most highly developed area has been property law. So, Dear Polish Friends, it is now beyond doubt that by law this is yours. I only ask that you allow us to maintain in our hearts some small feeling of ownership. Promise us, also, that you will care for it at least as well as we have done. So, in the name of Polish-Hungarian friendship, we now return it to you – in the hope that, sooner or later, everything in history will find its rightful place. Thank you for allowing us to safeguard it until now.
Photo credit: MTI/Press Office of the PM/Zoltán Fischer