Will the queen’s death affect the Koh-i-Noor diamond




The death of Queen Elizabeth II, ending her seven decades as Britain’s longest-serving monarch, has launched a period of shock and grief around the world.

But it has also reminded many of the monarchy’s dark colonial past, with several contemporary symbols being debated.

For example, soon after the Queen’s death was announced, the word “Kohinoor” started trending on Indian Twitter.

This was a reference to the Koh-i-Noor diamond, considered the world’s most expensive diamond, which can be found on display in the Tower of London, set in the Queen Mother’s crown.

The 105-carat diamond has a controversial past. For many South Asians, its loss represents the subjugation of India under British colonial rule, and its return is seen as partial restitution for decades of economic exploitation.

Many users on Twitter called on the British government to return the diamond, with several questions raised about the future of the Koh-i-Noor when King Charles III takes the throne.

“The only difference (her death) could make would be a political one,” Randall Hanson, the director of the Global Migration Lab at the University of Toronto, told CTVNews.ca on Friday.

“King Charles inheriting the throne may have an effect on the robustness with which the Indian government could make the case (for a return).

“But legally (her death) makes absolutely no difference because the decision is not made by the king but by the British government.”

Koh-i-Noor remains as the property of the royal family. Camilla, King Charles’ wife, will reportedly inherit the crown with the Koh-i-Noor.

But a more relevant question, according to Ritu Birla, associate professor in the department of history at the University of Toronto, is whether reparations for the conquest can be made to match the diamond’s symbolic value.

“People are also making arguments more broadly about replacements for the original context, for example,” she told CTVNews.ca on Friday.

“So this is a particular object that obviously has great material as well as symbolic value, opening up larger questions about whether there is, ever can be, adequate compensation for the violence of colonial conquests.”

India is not the first country to ask Britain for an artifact back. In 2020, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni called for 2,500-year-old Parthenon sculptures to be returned to Greece from the British Museum.

The marble sculptures have been mired in controversy for more than three decades, with Greece making numerous requests over almost as long to return them to their original location.

In 2022, the British Museum proposed a partnership that could potentially see the sculptures returned to the country, although the terms remain unclear.

Still, the museum’s willingness to negotiate is a positive sign for Birla.

If Greece can achieve that, then “there’s a leg to stand on (for other countries),” Birla told CTVNews.ca.

The Indian government has previously tried to bring back the Koh-i-Noor. The diamond was first sought by the Indian government after the country gained independence in 1947. In the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, India made another claim, according to the New York Times.

These demands were ignored by Britain, which argued that there was no legal basis for returning the Kohinoor to India.

In 2016, a rights group petitioned the court to order the Indian government to return the diamond.

While it initially said the diamond should not be returned as it was “neither stolen nor taken by force by British rulers”, the Indian government reversed its stance and said it would work to bring back the artifact.

During a visit to India in 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron told local media that the diamond would stay in Britain.

“If you say yes to a (request) you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” Cameron said.

“I’m afraid it will have to stay put.”

With files from the Associated Press



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