The Koh-i-Noor Diamond’s Controversial Royal History, Explained

King Charles is making the whole monarch thing official with a coronation ceremony on May 6, 2023 (which is his grandson Archie’s birthday), but he’s not the only person getting a crown placed atop his head. Charles’s wife Queen Consort Camilla will also be crowned, which the royals confirmed in a statement saying, “The Ceremony will see His Majesty King Charles III crowned alongside The Queen Consort.”

The problem? The crown Queen Camilla is expected to wear is steeped in controversy thanks to housing the Koh-i-Noor diamond. This magnificent stone comes with a lot of history (we’re about to get into it, but the British seized it from India), and its use during the coronation could put the British royals in a tricky position—meaning Camilla might need to pick a new crown.

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So, What Is the Koh-i-Noor Diamond?

The Koh-i-Noor diamond (which is also spelled Kohinoor and Koh-i-Nur) is a 105.6 carat diamond which was set in the crown of Queen Elizabeth II‘s mother, aka the Queen Mother, in 1937. The name means “mountain of light” in Persian, and the diamond originated in the Golconda mines in India. It was seized in 1849 during Britain’s colonial rule and was “surrendered” to Queen Victoria by young heir Duleep Singh after the British imprisoned his mother, Rani Jindan. As Smithsonian Magazine puts it, “In 1849, after imprisoning Jindan, the British forced Duleep to sign a legal document amending the Treaty of Lahore, that required Duleep to give away the Koh-i-Noor and all claim to sovereignty. The boy was only 10 years old.”

As the Historical Royal Palaces website puts it, “The East India Company took the jewel from deposed Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1849, as a condition of the Treaty of Lahore. The treaty specified that the jewel be surrendered to Queen Victoria.”

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The diamond was removed from its original setting and recut as an oval to “conform to contemporary European tastes.” It’s been a controversial part of England’s Crown Jewels for over 150 years.

Following the Queen’s death, there have been renewed calls for the Koh-i-Noor diamond to be given back—though both India and Pakistan have been demanding its return for some time. In 2016, India’s ministry of culture said, “The government of India further reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Koh-i-Noor diamond in an amicable manner,” adding that it is a “valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history.”

That same year, lawyer Javed Iqbal Jaffry filed a petition for the diamond’s return to Pakistan, telling The Telegraph, “I want to establish the Koh-i-Noor’s status as a cultural object of Pakistan. I also request the court to order government of Pakistan to raise the issue with the British government.”

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So…Is Queen Camilla Going to Wear It?

Obviously, it won’t be a great look for Queen Camilla to show up at the coronation with a stolen diamond sitting on her head, but the situation is complicated. A source tells The Telegraph, “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.”

However, royal expert Angela Levin told the Daily Mail that “King Charles wants Queen Camilla to wear it at the coronation, to follow his grandmother.”

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Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports that India’s ruling party said Queen Camilla wearing the diamond would bring back “painful memories of the colonial past.” Which sounds like a pretty clear request for her not to do so.

There Are (A Lot) of Other Options

It seems somewhat unlikely that Queen Camilla will actually wear the Koh-i-Noor diamond due to this controversy, which begs the question: What will she wear? And what will ultimately happen to the diamond? The royals definitely don’t have a shortage of crowns, and per The Telegraph there are several options for Camilla, including the 1820 Diamond Diadem—worn by Queen Elizabeth II for the State Opening of Parliament:

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Not to mention Queen Mary’s Coronation Crown:

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It’s also possible that the Koh-i-Noor could be removed and replaced from the Queen Mother’s crown before Camilla wears it, but this would likely generate just as much conversation. Either way, the royals haven’t commented, so stay tuned….

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