Sto­ried di­a­mond

Book on Koh-i-Noor sheds light on gem’s bloody his­tory

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in New Delhi

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.

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