With the announcement this week that King Charles III’s coronation will take place in May, controversy is growing over what his wife, Camilla, will be wearing.
Camilla, who will become Queen Camilla during the ceremony, will have a crown placed on her head. The crown that is being considered is the one last worn by the mother of Queen Elizabeth II. Her name was also Elizabeth.
Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II last month, one of the jewels in that crown has become the center of that controversy.
The Koh-i-Noor diamond, a 105.6-carat shallow oval brilliant diamond that is mounted in the front of the crown that the queen mother wore, has been part of the crown jewels for more than 150 years.
The diamond has a long history with many countries making a claim on it. Here’s what we know about Koh-i-Noor.
Where did it come from and how did the royal family get it?
The diamond is thought to have originated in South India, according to William Dalrymple, co-author of “Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond,” a book describing the Koh-i-Noor diamond as “arguably the single most valuable object in not just the Punjab but the entire subcontinent.”
While exactly when the diamond was mined is unclear, it is believed to have existed as early as the 1300s, but possibly before then.
The diamond is believed to have been owned by different kingdoms in Asia — thus Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan have all staked a claim on the diamond and have asked the United Kingdom to return the jewel.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, the diamond was a gift from Sultan Abdul Medjid to Queen Victoria in 1856 — a gesture of gratitude for British support during the Crimean War.
Others say Koh-i-Noor was surrendered to the British East India Company in 1849 by Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1849 under the Treaty of Lahore. The diamond and “vast lands” were signed over by the 11-year-old maharaja.
“In the colonial discourse it was seen as a gift from India, although it has a chequered history of being owned by different kingdoms across South Asia and West Asia,” Jyoti Atwal, associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told The Telegraph.
“It was one of the biggest signifiers of victory for Britain over the subcontinent and since India’s independence in 1947, there have been demands of bringing it back.
“It has always been at the center of political restoration and restoring Indian pride, and doing away with this blot in history.”
The Koh-i-Noor was formally presented to Queen Victoria on 3 July 1850 at Buckingham Palace. It was cut by Garrard & Co and turned into a brooch for Victoria.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, the diamond was mounted on a crown for Queen Alexandra (wife of King Edward VII) in 1902, and in 1911 transferred to a crown that Queen Mary (wife of King George V) wore.
The diamond was later placed in the crown that Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (wife of King George VI) wore.
Has India asked for it back?
India has repeatedly demanded that the U.K. return the diamond, including last month after Queen Elizabeth died.
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.
Could Camilla just wear another crown?
According to The Telegraph, Lauren Kiehna, a royal jewelry expert who writes a blog under the name of The Court Jeweller, said she believes it is unlikely that a new crown will be created for the coronation.
An option would be for Camilla to wear the Queen Mother’s crown after it was modified to replace the Koh-i-Noor with another jewel.
“I would imagine that Charles and Camilla would be keen to avoid additional criticism when possible, and Charles particularly has always seemed sensitive to the fact that jewels can carry significant symbolism,” Kiehna wrote in her blog.
The British government on Thursday, responding to news articles that are saying 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 to The Washington Post about the statement.