Prince William has been compared to the Nazis and the Taliban over his calls for the destruction of the royal ivory collection.
David Battie, the longest-serving expert on the Antiques Roadshow, claimed the Duke of Cambridge’s proposal was no different to dictatorships that eradicate artworks for political or religious reasons.
William said he would like the Royal Family’s 1,200 ivory artefacts to be destroyed to reinforce his message that trade in the tusk material is immoral.
But in an open letter to the prince, 71-year-old Mr Battie said the items – some more than 200 years old – should be left untouched to help future generations learn about historic societies.
The BBC star, who works for art auctioneers Sworders and was previously employed by Sotheby’s, wrote: ‘Your highness, I have nothing but admiration for your principled stance, your obvious love of wildlife in general and of the elephant in particular, but I really don’t think that destroying the one will preserve the other.’
He said earlier societies’ creations allow us to ‘build up a picture of their world’, adding: ‘Destroying their works of art erases them from the historical record.
‘Such iconoclasm has not been much admired by succeeding generations … to witness a few: the Mongols, the Nazis, Khmer Rouge, the Roundheads, Mao Tse Tung and the Taliban.’
The letter, published in the Antiques Trade Gazette, added: ‘I do not think that this wholesale destruction would move the progress of the campaign one iota.’
It was primatologist Dame Jane Goodall who last month revealed Prince William had said he would ‘like to see all the ivory owned by Buckingham Palace destroyed’.
Much of the Royal Collection was presented to the monarchy by foreign countries, but is now held in trust for the nation. William and was at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London last month, where his father warned the imminent extinction of some species would have ‘dire consequences for humanity’.
Prince Charles told international leaders the ‘appalling’ illegal ivory trade was ‘annihilating our threatened wildlife’.
The Royal Collection includes an ivory throne on which Queen Victoria was photographed when she became Empress of India in 1876.
One of the oldest artefacts is a leather and ivory fan celebrating the recovery of King George III from an illness in 1789.
It was given to Victoria on her Golden Jubilee in 1887 and presented to Queen Mary in 1911. There is also an ivory cup decorated with rubies, emeralds and turquoise, bought by George IV in 1823.
Critics point out Prince William’s plan also threatens a portrait of his own grandmother – a miniature of the Queen as a toddler, painted on ivory in 1928.
Renowned art critic Brian Sewell last night said he agreed with Mr Battie, adding: ‘The Prince has been very foolish and not thought this through… Destroying the ivory in the Royal Collection is not going to have any effect at all.’
The idea was also condemned by art broker David Harper who labelled it ‘bonkers beyond belief’.
Dr Brendan Moyle and Dr Dan Stiles, who have conducted studies for charities such as Save The Elephants, suggested previous attempts to suppress the trade by destroying stockpiles have actually driven up the price of tusks.