$591m diamond at centre of royal scandal

It’s quite literally a jewel in the royal crown – but some claim it’s “stolen” and should be returned.

The word “Kohinoor” blew up on Twitter soon after the passing of the late Queen Elizabeth II, reigniting a centuries-old campaign to correct the course of British colonialism.

Kohinoor is one of the largest and most expensive cut diamonds in the world and the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

Weighing 105.6 carats, the diamond is said to be worth $591 million.

But how it came to be in the possession of the royal family is a sore point for some, with the Queen’s death sparking calls for it to be returned to those who claim to be its rightful owners – claims King Charles III will now need to deal with.

While its exact origins are unclear, the British are said to have acquired the stone in the late 1840s after convincing 10-year-old Maharajah Duleep Singh to surrender Punjab to Britain’s East India Company, with the diamond reaching Queen Victoria around 1850.

Most recently it featured in the crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and was worn by Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation 1953.

The crown was last shown publicly in 2002, resting atop of the Queen Mother’s coffin at her funeral.

Indians in recent days have ramped up calls to have the jewel returned.

Just eight minutes after news broke of the Queen’s passing, one Indian Twitter user wrote: “On behalf of Indians, we want our Kohinoor back”.

What followed was a flurry of commentary in support of the diamond’s return to India.

“Let’s not forget the Queen refused to return the Kohinoor diamond back to India after the British stole it,” another claimed.

“Now can we get our #Kohinoor back? Reminder that Queen Elizabeth is not a remnant of colonial times. She was an active participant in colonialism,” wrote another.

Jyoti Atwal, a historian at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told the ABC King Charles III will now have to confront the past and apologise for Britain’s role in historical events.

“King Charles will have to look at this new phase of anti-colonialism because anti-colonialism has changed its face now,” Professor Atwal said.

However the campaign for the diamond’s return is not new.

In 2000, Indian politicians penned a letter to the UK asking for the Kohinoor to be returned.

“Britain owes us,” Indian MP Shashi Tharoor wrote.

“But, instead of returning the evidence of their rapacity to their rightful owners, the British are flaunting the Kohinoor on the Queen Mother’s crown in the Tower of London.

“It is a stark reminder of what colonialism truly was: shameless subjugation, coercion, and misappropriation.”

In 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron during a visit to India ruled out giving the diamond back, saying “I certainly don’t believe in ‘returnism’, as it were – I don’t think that’s sensible.”

“The right answer is for the British Museum and other cultural institutions to do exactly what they do, which is to link up with other institutions around the world to make sure that the things which we have and look after so well are properly shared with people around the world,” he said.

However, the diamond has changed hands more than once over the course of its long history, opening debate as to whether Indians are even the rightful owners.

The diamond, which was discovered “thousands” of years ago, has spent time in the possession of Mughals, Afghans and Persians before it was held by the young Punjab Maharajah, and later the British according toSmithsonian Magazine.

“The fact that India have the audacity to say that the Kohinoor belongs to them. I’m pretty sure it was originally found in Lahore therefore belongs to Pakistan,” one Twitter user contested.

“Please return stolen Kohinoor diamond back to Afghanistan so #QueenElizabeth can see heaven,” one wrote.

“Ironically some say the Kohinoor should be returned to #Iran because the Persian king Nadir had it as the spoil of war. He stole it. The Brits re-stole it. If the diamond came from a mine in #India, worn by Indian monarchs, it should be returned to #India,” another argued.

As for whether we will see the diamond worn again?

It is tipped Queen Consort Camilla will likely wear the Kohinoor on special occasions like the coronation of King Charles III – as will Kate Middleton if or when she becomes Queen Consort.


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