Book on Koh-i-Noor sheds light on gem’s bloody history
Many precious stones have a blood-soaked history, but a new book reveals the world’s most famous diamond — known as the Kohinoor — surpasses them all.
Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the Kohinoor (Mountain of Light) has witnessed the birth and the fall of empires across the Indian subcontinent, and remains the subject of a bitter ownership battle between the United Kingdom and India.
“It is an unbelievably violent story. Almost everyone who owns the diamond or touches it comes to a horribly sticky end,” said British historian William Dalrymple, who co-authored Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond with journalist Anita Anand.
“We get poisonings, bludgeonings, someone gets their head beaten in with bricks, lots of torture, one person blinded by a hot needle. There is a rich variety of horrors in this book,” Dalrymple said.
In one particularly gruesome incident recounted in the book, molten lead was poured into the crown of a Persian prince to make him reveal the location of the diamond.
Today the diamond, probably first discovered in India during the reign of the Mogul dynasty, is on public display in the Tower of London, part of the crown of the late Queen Mother.
India has tried in vain to get the stone back since winning independence in 1947, and the subject is frequently brought up when officials from the two countries meet.
Iran, Pakistan and even the Afghan Taliban have also claimed the Kohinoor in the past.
The diamond, which is said to be cursed, has not been worn by a British monarch since the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
It last emerged from its glass case for the funeral of the Queen Mother, when it was placed on her coffin.
So might it be worn again — perhaps by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, when Prince Charles ascends to the throne?
“If that doesn’t finish the monarchy, nothing else would,” Dalrymple said.