My next blog was supposed to be Part 2 of “Can an Object Make You Commit a Crime?” -– I know, I know. That will just have to wait because we had a coronation. A real coronation, you guys. I couldn’t resist writing about that, and I hope you’ll indulge me.
On May 6, we saw an air-conditioned Gold State Coach, Prince Harry in the third row, Princess Charlotte twining her mother. What we did not see was Camilla wearing a queen consort’s crown, the Queen Mother’s Crown. A first since 1757. Why, you demand to know. Because that headgear holds the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Yay! She wore Queen Mary’s Crown instead.
The 105-carat diamond’s path from excavation in today’s India to its current home in the Tower of London, as part of England’s crown jewels was violent, weaving through modern-day India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. (Even the name signals its complicated lineage. Koh-i-Noor translates to ‘Mountain of Light’ in Persian.) So much bloodshed surrounded the jewel that it was said to curse any man who possessed it. In 1849 The Last Treaty of Lahore turned the Koh-i-Noor over to the British monarch – a woman. Hmm.
It was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850. The next year it was seen and admired by one-third of England at the Great Exhibition in London.
(If all this sounds familiar, you probably read The Moonstone, published in 1868. The fictional loot was a large diamond, which carried a curse. Or you may have seen one of the many movies based on the novel. England was the setting of the body of the novel, and the events span from June 1848 until November 1850, but the prologue and epilogue take place in colonial India.)
IRL, the UK gives several reasons to justify keeping the Koh-i-Noor. Not the least of which is the competing claims on it. In addition to India’s desire to have the Koh-i-Noor returned, there are other petitioners. Lahore, where the diamond was turned over, is now the capital of the province of Punjab in Pakistan. In August 1976 Pakistan’s prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, wrote to British Prime Minister James Callaghan asking for the return of the jewel. In 2000 the Taliban wrote to the Queen with a request that the jewel be returned to Afghanistan.
Though the diamond is no longer described as the largest ever discovered, it is both a lightning rod and a Rorschach test. I say “hip hip hooray” for the decision not to flaunt this image of colonialism.
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