The Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Crown, made for her coronation in 1937.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Crown, made for her coronation in 1937.

This graceful crown was made for The Queen Mother when she was crowned as queen consort of King George VI in 1937. It is set with diamonds from a circlet which belonged to Queen Victoria, and its outstanding feature is the famous Koh-i-noor diamond of 108 carats.

Koh-i-noor means Mountain of Light and immemorial tradition claims that the owner of the diamond rules the world. The stone has a long and dramatic history. Sultan Baber, founder of the Mogul empire, recorded that in 1526 it was given to his son, Haumayun, and that it had formerly belonged to Sultan Al-el-Din, who reigned about 1304. The diamond passed to Sultan Baber’s descendants Akbar Shan, Jehangir and Shah Jehan. The last-named is said to have given it to his queen, Mumtaz Mahal, in whose memory the Taj Mahal was built. Possibly at that time the legend that it should be worn only by a woman, since to a man it will always bring disaster, originated. Historical fact confirms that most of the subsequent male owners of the diamond suffered violent deaths and some were murdered.

In 1739 the Persian invader, Nadir Shah, carried it to Persia, but was himself assassinated soon afterwards. His son, Shah Rukh, was quickly deposed, but mindful of the story that the owner of the jewel rules the world, even though he may endure misfortune, successfully concealed it and presently regained his throne.

Ahmed Shah, founder of the Durani dynasty of Afghanistan, obtained the Koh-i-noor after Shah Rukh’s death. It brought further calamities to his Mahommedan descendants before becoming the property of Ranjit Singh, ruler of the Sikhs. When the Sikh Empire collapsed, not long after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the British annexed the Punjab, and the Koh-i-noor diamond which was in the treasury at Lahore, was brought to England and presented to Queen Victoria. She wore it in a brooch or bracelet, but it was later mounted in the crowns of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary and finally in that of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. No king of England has ever worn this fateful stone.

Originally the Koh-i-noor is said to have weighed about 1000 carats, but by the time Shah Jehan inherited it, unskilful cutting had reduced it to some 800 carats. Later when he had it recut by a Venetian, a flaw was found and this involved cutting away over 600 carats. Further recutting reduced the diamond to its present size of 108*9 carats.

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