What Is The Koh-I-Noor Diamond? Why Camilla Might Not Wear A Controversial Jewel-Encrusted Crown For Coronation

The famous gem was seized by the East India Company and given to Queen Victoria in 1849.
The Queen Mother's coronation crown with the Koh-i-noor diamond.
The Queen Mother's coronation crown with the Koh-i-noor diamond.
Tim Graham via Getty Images

Camilla, the Queen Consort, may not wear a jewel-encrusted crown at the coronation because of its links to Britain’s colonial past.

The Queen Mother’s coronation crown is set with the Koh-i-noor diamond, a famous but controversial gem which was seized by the East India Company and given to Queen Victoria in the 19th century.

Critics say its appearance would provide an unwelcome reminder of the British Empire.

What is the Koh-i-Noor diamond?

The historic 105.6 carat treasure was presented to Victoria by the East India Company in 1849 and became part of the Crown Jewels.

The crown was made especially for the Queen Mother’s 1937 coronation, features the sparkling gem, which sits, in the front cross-pattee in a detachable platinum mount, according to the Royal Collection.

The coronation crown – which features 2,800 diamonds – adorned the Queen Mother’s coffin at her lying in state and funeral in 2002.

The Koh-i-Noor, which means Mountain of Light, was discovered in the Golconda mines in what is now the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

The large, colourless diamond then passed between Mughal princes, Iranian warriors, Afghan rulers and Punjabi Maharajas before it was given in 1849 to the East India Company, which offered it to Queen Victoria.

The East India Company was a corporation commanding a private army, operational since 1600, that paved the way for British imperial rule over India in the 19th and 20th centuries.

India, along with Pakistan and Afghanistan, have long argued over who has the rightful claim to the gem.

It is said to bring bad luck to any man who wears it.

Prince Albert had the Koh-i-Noor re-cut to improve its brilliance and conform to contemporary European tastes.

What have people said?

The governing party of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is reported to have expressed concern that about the jewel’s involvement.

According to the Telegraph, a spokesperson for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party said: “The coronation of Camilla and the use of the crown jewel Koh-i-noor brings back painful memories of the colonial past.

“Most Indians have very little memory of the oppressive past. Five to six generations of Indians suffered under multiple foreign rules for over five centuries.

“Recent occasions, like Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the coronation of the new Queen Camilla and the use of the Koh-i-noor does transport a few Indians back to the days of the British Empire in India.”

The British government has said it was a matter for Buckingham Palace.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly told Sky News: “Ultimately, decisions like that are for the palace. The palace is really very good at assessing the public, and indeed the international, mood.”

He added: “We have a fantastic relationship with India and the Indian people. It is a decision for the palace and I have no doubt the coronation will be an absolute celebration.”

Would could happen instead?

Palace officials are understood to be reviewing whether she should wear the jewel, with the King acutely aware of the sensitivities.

Options could include the removal of the diamond and its mount, replacement with a crystal replica, or Camilla could opt for another crown.

She is due to be crowned in a similar but simpler ceremony as part of the King’s coronation on May 6 next year in Westminster Abbey.

The date for the coronation was unveiled on Tuesday, and the deeply religious affair will take place in the London Abbey, eight months after Charles’s accession to the throne and the death of the Queen.

Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on the crown.


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