Even by the standards of Portugal’s well-deserved and worldwide reputation for lack of effort when it comes to processing paperwork a new petition that has been lodged 418 years after the event may have set a new national record.
There was a bit of local difficulty in 1596 when Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex attacked Faro in search of riches. He found nothing much of value except a rather fine library owned by the Bishop of the Algarve, Fernando Martins Mascarenhas which was duly removed and given to Devereux's friend back in Blighty, one Thomas Bodley. This collection of books formed the basis of Oxford’s Bodleian Libray in 1602.
The 65 titles contained in 91 volumes includes the only known remaining copy of the Pentateuch, (the first five books of the Old Testamant - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) which is held in the British Library.
‘FARO 1540,’ the Association for the Defense and Promotion of Cultural Heritage and Environment of Faro, has decided officially to ask for the books to be returned, hopefully without a fine, and has sent a polite letter to this affect to the British government, the University of Oxford, the Queen, the British Prime Minister, the British Embassy in Portugal, the State Secretary of Culture of Portugal, Faro Municipality, the Bishop of the Algarve and the media.
The group has convinced itself that the British authorities will recognise the justice of its claim and is playing heavily on the old diplomatic alliance between Portugal and Britain.