Pretty much as soon as Queen Elizabeth II signed off, this year, on “Queen Consort Camilla,” royal sources began talking about how Camilla would wear the Queen Mother’s platinum and diamond consort crown, featuring 2,800 diamonds. One of those diamonds is the Koh-i-Noor, the 105-carat diamond stolen from India in the 19th century. India has wanted the Koh-i-Noor back for decades. The Indian government paid close attention to all of the stories this year about how Camilla would wear one of the most famous stolen (and cursed) diamonds in history. This week, a spokesperson for Indian PM Narendra Modi told British outlets:
“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.”
Yep. The Koh-i-Noor should be sent back to India, where it can be displayed in a museum. Send back all of the Indian treasure, the jewels and the art. Send back all of the looted antiquities, the gems, the spices and everything else. Hilariously, this discussion has become part of the backdrop of an ongoing trade negotiation between India and Britain. Even the Washington Post is calling out the Windsors’ bullsh-t.
The jewel in the British crown — literally — is coming under new scrutiny with the upcoming coronation of King Charles III and growing questions over what Camilla, Queen Consort, will wear on her head. The most famous jewel worn by British royalty on stately occasions, the spectacular 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond, is one that several countries, including India, say they would like back.
The British government on Thursday, responding to front-page stories claiming that Camilla may not wear the crown so as not to upset India, said that it was up to the palace to decide how the queen consort’s crown should be decorated. Buckingham Palace declined to comment.
India — with which Britain would very much like to conclude a trade agreement — has repeatedly demanded the return of the diamond, especially following Elizabeth’s funeral.
Rakesh Sinha, a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, told The Washington Post that the Koh-i-Noor symbolized the monarchy’s “unapologetic” link to a past that was “barbaric and exploitative,” adding that the jewel must be returned to India by way of recompense.
If Camilla wears the Koh-i-Noor in her crown, it “shows the British people and government are carrying the legacy of their colonialism,” he said. “It exhibits the loot plunder and exploitation of India by them. The most regretful is they are not ready to correct their past and showing off the stolen jewel as the part of their sovereign seat.”
“Every person in India has heard of this stone and wants it back. Clearly this is massive importance to India, but also Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan,” said William Dalrymple, co-author of “Kohinoor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond.” Most British people, however, are barely aware of it, in part because teaching about the British Empire doesn’t feature prominently in school curriculums, said the author, who splits his time between Britain and India.
“They learn about the Roman empire, all sorts of empires, but not the British Empire,” Dalrymple said. “For them, the Koh-i-Noor is usually a local Indian restaurant or a brand of pencils or occasionally a trip to the Tower of London.”
The crown controversy comes at a time when Britain and India are engaged in trade talks, which are of great interest to post-Brexit Britain. Both sides in April said they wanted to conclude talks by the Indian holiday of Diwali on Oct. 24. But there have been reports that the talks have run into problems after British Home Secretary Suella Braverman — herself a child of immigrants — expressed concerns about what the deal would mean for migration, considering that “the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants.”
Dalrymple, the author, said that “the British, post-Brexit, are keen to make friends with India, at the same time India is getting more and more hyper sensitive about its colonial past.” He said it would be a “very well-received gesture not to wear” the diamond at the coronation and an “even better-received gesture to give it back.”
“The largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants” – y’all know who overstayed in India throughout history? British colonizers. They overstayed for centuries. Anyway, I hope India demands that this trade deal be conditional on the Koh-i-Noor. I can already see that British people think they’re being slick, asking all pseudo-innocently, “but which country should we return it to?” You return it to India. It doesn’t belong to you, you don’t get to dictate who possesses it or exhibits it in museums.
Photos courtesy of Getty, Avalon Red, Cover Images.