In Britain, it has been used in the crowning of Queens for generations with pomp, ceremony but little noticeable fuss, mounted on successive crowns worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. It is a 1000-year-old Empire symbol in some areas of the rest of the world and the focus of ongoing upset that now seems to be reaching a boiling point.
The Koh-i-Noor diamond, which has been a part of the Crown Jewels for more than 150 years, is the subject of new demands for its return, with India being the nation with the greatest diplomatic tensions asserting its ownership. It is the absolute last thing the future King and Queen Consort will want to take centre stage as they prepare for a Coronation unlike any other before them.
The diamond, which is often said to have been “given” to Britain in 1849, is currently mounted in the crown that Queen Elizabeth, afterwards known as the Queen Mother, wore during her own coronation in 1937.
The crown was thought to be a front-runner among the options for Queen Camilla to wear for next year’s Coronation, and has been under discussion at the palace for as long as it has been understood she will join the King for the ceremony.
The Coronation has deliberately been kept quite unplanned, unlike the Bridges programme [for the late Queen’s death] to ensure it can best reflect the climate at the time at which it happens. People at the palace will be keenly conscious of tradition and wish to represent it while being sensitive to the challenges of today, and planning will now begin in earnest. At this stage, it’s entirely possible that the Koh-i-Noor will be in or out. Bluntly, people will be wondering whether they really want a row over a diamond right now.
Diamond is one of the most important symbols of British victory
Jyoti Atwal, associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, explained the diamond’s significance, how it travelled around the medieval world as a “prized possession” and in 1851, after British annexation, went to the United Kingdom via a treaty with an 11-year-old King in Punjab, she adds In the colonial discourse it was seen as a gift from India, although it has a chequered history of being owned by different kingdoms across South Asia and West Asia. It was one of the biggest signifiers of victory for Britain over the subcontinent and since India’s independence in 1947, there have been demands of bringing it back. It has always been at the centre of political restoration and restoring Indian pride, and doing away with this blot in history. A resurgence of interest in “bringing it back” was now “very visible” among a new generation on social media.
Saurav Dutt, an author and political commentator born in Kolkata and raised in the UK, said, “Ensuring the Koh-i-Noor remains front and centre in the public eye in this way flies in the face of any attempt by the royal family and political orthodoxies to draw a line under the dispossession, prejudice, plunder and exploitation that imperialism revelled in. “Such a position is at odds with the modern, egalitarian stance the royals seek to present themselves within a world that seeks to move on from the ugliest chapters of history that they benefited from.”
Creation of new crown unlikely
Options for the Queen Consort’s coronation crown include using the existing crown worn by Queen Elizabeth – originally thought to be the most cost-effective and simplest option. It could be resized and modified to replace the Koh-i-Noor, or a different and less contentious crown chosen for the occasion.
Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary both had new crowns made for their coronations, with the precious diamonds later replaced by crystal versions. Lauren Kiehna, a royal jewellery expert who writes a blog under the name of The Court Jeweller, last week predicted that the creation of a new crown for Queen Camilla was unlikely but called the inclusion of the Koh-i-Noor diamond a “real, serious sticking point”.
“I would imagine that Charles and Camilla would be keen to avoid additional criticism when possible, and Charles particularly has always seemed sensitive to the fact that jewels can carry significant symbolism,” she wrote. The diamond, thought to have originated in South India, has previously been claimed by Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
India-UK diplomatic relations
British foreign minister James Cleverly said Britain wanted to have an even stronger trading relationship with India after reports that remarks by a fellow minister about Indian immigrants could put a future deal in doubt.
We do want to have an even stronger, and it’s strong already, but an even greater trading relationship with India, Cleverly said in response to a question regarding the interior minister Suella Braverman’s remarks about Indian migrants in Britain and the potential consequences.
However, the India-U.K. free trade deal is also ‘on the verge of collapse’ over visa comments. Government sources say that ministers in New Delhi were “shocked and disappointed” by the “disrespectful” remarks made by Ms. Braverman, who said she had concerns of an “open borders” offer to India as part of an FTA. The likelihood of meeting the Diwali deadline for the pact, set by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is now believed to be diminishing.