Queen Consort Camilla won’t wear one of the world’s most famous—and disputed—gems during King Charles III’s coronation this spring, in an apparent recognition of the diplomatic sensitivities around the 105-carat oval jewel. The Kohinoor, or Mountain of Light, has long been the subject of a spat between India and its former colonial master Britain.
Yet while some see the gesture as a welcome step, they and others have called on Britain to return the Kohinoor diamond to India. “It does feels like a big shift that the #Kohinoor is not going to be used in the #coronation. But when is the myth that the diamond was ‘reputedly gifted’ going to stop being peddled?” reads one tweet. An op-ed in The Indian Express called Camilla’s decision a “distraction” from the bigger issue of how colonialism robbed the Global South.
The Kohinoor diamond, which ranks as one of the world’s largest, was “gifted” to Queen Victoria in 1849 by the 11-year-old emperor of the Sikhs, Maharaja Duleep Singh. But Singh’s mother had reportedly been a prisoner of Britain and was forced to sign it away. It has remained property of Britain’s royal family ever since.
Below, what to know about renewed calls for the Kohinoor diamond to be returned to India, and the crown Camilla will wear at King Charles III’s coronation.
Why is the Kohinoor’s history so controversial?
Last year, a spokesman for India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told the Daily Telegraph that the “coronation of Camilla and the use of the crown jewel Kohinoor brings back painful memories of the colonial past.”
The Kohinoor was mined in modern-day Andhra Pradesh, during the Kakatiyan dynasty of the 12th to 14th centuries, and passed through the hands of various leaders of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, and later the Persians and Afghans.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, which looks after the royal family’s collection of artifacts, the diamond was eventually presented to Queen Victoria by the East India Company in 1851 and cut into a brooch for coronation crowns, the Daily Telegraph reported.
After India gained independence in 1947, the government unsuccessfully requested the precious stone be returned.
In 2010, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron vowed that the diamond would “stay put” in Britain and so far it has. The diamond, as part of Queen Mary’s Crown, has for years been securely kept in the Tower of London.
What is Queen Mary’s Crown that Camilla will wear?
Queen Mary’s Crown was made by Garrard’s, a luxury jewelers based in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. It was commissioned by Queen Mary, the consort of King George V, for her husband’s 1911 coronation. The crown’s design was inspired by Queen Alexandra’s Crown of 1902, and can be worn without the arches, as Queen Mary did at the coronation of her son, King George VI, in 1937.
The crown was last seen in public on the Queen Mother’s coffin at her funeral in 2002.
A Buckingham Palace statement shared with TIME said that the crown has already been removed from display at the Tower of London so it can be readied and worn by Camilla at the King’s coronation in May. The statement added that the crown will be modified with minor changes and additions to ensure it is unique to the occasion and “reflects the Consort’s individual style.”
“The choice of Queen Mary’s Crown by Her Majesty is the first time in recent history that an existing crown will be used for the coronation of a consort instead of a new commission being made, in the interests of sustainability and efficiency,” the statement said. King Charles III is a committed environmentalist, and a slimmed down coronation is expected as Britain grapples with the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.
These changes will see the crown reset with the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds from the Queen Elizabeth II’s personal jewelry collection. Worth around $50 million, the late Queen was fond of wearing the diamonds as a brooch and would call them “Granny’s Chips,” as she inherited them from her grandmother Queen Mary.
Four of the crown’s eight arches will also be removed to distinguish the headpiece from how it was worn by its last owner in 1911.
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