This 1,000-Year-Old Royal Jewel Could Be a "Massive Diplomatic Grenade" Should Queen Consort Camilla Decide to Wear it for King Charles' Coronation
“The Koh-i-Noor brings back painful memories.”
Will Queen Consort Camilla still be crowned using the Koh-i-Noor diamond on May 6? Palace officials are reportedly rethinking use of the diamond, which was last worn by the late Queen Mother in 1937, after the Indian government accused the Royal Family of cultural insensitivity. "It was legally gifted to the Queen Empress, but this was by a boy prince who had no say in the matter," says writer and historian Zareer Masani. "To whom can we say, a century and a half later, it legitimately belongs?" Here is why the Indian authorities are allegedly upset, and what might happen next.
In the words of the Royal Collection Trust, the Koh-i-Noor diamond was "surrendered" to Queen Victoria by the 11-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1849, as part of the Treaty of Lahore. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran also lay claim to the thousand-year-old, 105.6 carat diamond. "There are serious political sensitivities and significant nervousness," a source told the Daily Mail.
India's Bharatiya Janata Party says continuing the tradition for royal consorts to wear the Koh-i-Noor would raise unwelcome memories of India's past. "The coronation of Camilla and the use of the crown jewel Koh-i-Noor brings back painful memories of the colonial past," says a BJP spokesman. "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."
The BJP says it would be insensitive to use the diamond, considering the role Great Britain played in India until the country became independent of British rule in 1947. "Recent occasions, like Queen Elizabeth II's death, the coronation of the new Queen Camilla and the use of the Koh-i-Noor do transport a few Indians back to the days of the British Empire in India," the BJP spokesman says.
Palace insiders are reportedly considering using a different stone from the royal collection for the coronation 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," a source reveals. "Now is when the planning will begin in earnest, and people at the palace will be acutely aware of and wanting to reflect tradition whilst being sensitive to the issues around today. 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."
In the spirit of the new stripped-down monarchy, King Charles is reportedly planning on having a much smaller coronation than his mother did in 1953. While Queen Elizabeth II had a three hour ceremony and 8000 guests, Charles apparently wants a 1.5 hour ceremony and just 2000 guests. He and Camilla will be anointed with holy oil and crowned.