Kohinoor diamond: Row looms over crown for UK Queen Consort Camilla at coronation

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If Britain decides to use the controversial Kohinoor diamond for Queen Consort Camilla’s coronation, it will evoke “painful memories of the colonial past,” a spokesperson for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political party has been quoted as saying.

“Camilla’s coronation and the use of the Kohinoor Crown Jewel brings back painful memories of the colonial past. Most Indians have few memories of the oppressive past. Five to six generations of Indians have suffered under multiple foreign rules for over five centuries,” a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman told UK newspaper The Telegraph.

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“Recent events such as the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the coronation of the new Queen Camilla and the use of the Kohinoor bring some Indians back to the days of the British Empire in India,” he added.

One of the world’s largest and most controversial gems, the Kohinoor diamond has been at the center of a centuries’ old debate between India and the United Kingdom.

The Queen Consort is set to be crowned alongside King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on May 6 next year, with the disputed gem having been expected to be used during the coronation ceremony.

Reports suggest that Buckingham Palace is now reconsidering its plans for Camilla to be crowned using the diamond which has been mounted on crowns previously worn by consorts including Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary. It was most recently worn by the Queen Mother in 1937.

After the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, Indians took to social media to demand the return of the $591 million, 105-carat Kohinoor diamond.

A source told The Telegraph late Wednesday that the gem was not treated as “problematic” until recently and that aides were keen to move with the times.

“The coronation has deliberately been kept quite unplanned, unlike the Bridges program [for the late Queen’s death] to ensure it can best reflect the climate at the time at which it happens,” the source was quoted as saying.

“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 Kohinoor will be in or out. Bluntly, people will be wondering whether they really want a row over a diamond right now.”

Another source told the Daily Mail that King Charles was “acutely sensitive” to the issue and that advisors were having “significant nervousness” around the issue.

The diamond’s notoriety stems from the way in which it was acquired by the British in the late 1840s, author and researcher Dr. John Zubryzcki told SBS News last month, and the gem eventually reached Queen Victoria around 1850.

It was passed down from Queen Victoria to Elizabeth II’s Queen Mother Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon to the late queen herself.

“The origins of the diamond are kind of shrouded in mystery and we can’t be exactly sure when it was first sighted, but we think it dates back to about the 14th century, and was discovered in what is now Andhra Pradesh,” Dr Zubrzycki said.

“It was in the possession of the Persians and then in the Afghans, and was brought back to India, after the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh took it from the Afghan leader Shah Shujah Durrani, and then it was acquired by the British when they annexed the Punjab, so that was the days of the East India Company.”

The researcher said he believes that the stone was acquired by the British after 10-year-old Punjab Maharaja Duleep Singh – the last ruler of the Sikh Empire – surrendered his state to the British during the Anglo-Sikh War.

The gem was presented to Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert, asked for it to be recut, and it was then set in the crowns of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary before being placed on the Queen Mother’s crown in 1937.

It had made its way through several Indian dynasties including the Mughals, the Persians, the Afghans, the Turco-Afghan Khilji, and the Sikh rulers before ending up in Britain.

In 2017, the Indian Supreme Court said it was not able to pass an order for reclaiming the diamond from Britain or to stop it from being auctioned.

Although no future plans for the gem have been disclosed, the fact that it still remains in the UK today after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and that the crown it is mounted on is thought to be a frontrunner among the options for Camilla to wear at the coronation has sparked renewed upset among Indians on social media.

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