Camilla has averted a potential international row by choosing a crown that will not feature the Koh-i-Noor diamond.
Ownership of the 105-carat gem is hotly disputed, with India among several nations claiming it as their own.
Buckingham Palace yesterday confirmed the Queen Consort would wear Queen Mary’s crown at the coronation in May. It was commissioned and worn by the consort of King George V for his 1911 coronation.
It is the first time since the 18th century that a crown will be reused for a consort’s coronation. The Palace said the choice of Queen Mary’s was in the ‘interests of sustainability and efficiency’.
It originally contained the Koh-i-Noor but that was later transferred to the crown made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother for her and George VI’s coronation in 1937. It means neither the original Koh-i-Noor, nor a quartz crystal replica which was used to replace it, will be used in the coronation of King Charles III and Camilla at Westminster Abbey, as reported by the Mail in October.
Camilla will wear Queen Mary’s crown at the coronation, Buckingham Palace confirmed
The governing party of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was said then to have expressed concern that the diamond – seized by the East India Company and given to Queen Victoria in the 19th century – would provide an unwelcome reminder of the British Empire.
Nigel Fletcher, a teaching fellow in politics and contemporary history at King’s College London, said: ‘This is a smart solution to the problem of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, and avoids the inevitable controversy which surrounds that stone.
‘Wearing it during the coronation, as the last two Queens Consort have done, would today seem particularly insensitive, and would have risked a diplomatic row, given that India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have all claimed ownership over the years.’
Historian Priya Atwal said on Twitter it ‘feels like a big shift that the Koh-i-Noor is not going to be used in the coronation’, adding it ‘feels significant that the royal establishment is now apparently attuned enough to debates about colonial history to drop the gem from the ceremony’.
Queen Mary’s crown has been removed from the Tower of London for modification before the ceremony on May 6. In a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, the Palace said the crown would be re-set using diamonds from her personal jewellery collection, using the large diamonds known as Cullinan III, IV and V.
Four of the crown’s eight detachable arches will be removed to create a different impression from when it was worn by Queen Mary in 1911. Buckingham Palace said yesterday: ‘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.
‘Some minor changes and additions will be undertaken by the crown jeweller, in keeping with the longstanding tradition that the insertion of jewels is unique to the occasion, and reflects the consort’s individual style.’
The last consort to reuse a crown was Queen Caroline, the consort of George II who wore one belonging to Mary of Modena, consort of James II, in 1727.
It is the first time since the 18th century that a crown such as Queen Mary’s Crown (pictured) will be reused for a consort’s coronation. The Koh-i-noor diamond (right) will not be worn
Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Cullinan V brooch. The Cullinan diamonds were cut from the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, in 1908. Cullinan III and IV were set into Queen Mary’s crown for the coronation of George V in 1911
Queen Elizabeth (pictured here with the late Queen, her sister Margaret and King George VI) wore the late Queen Mother ‘s crown featuring the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond at the State Openings of Parliament during the reign of King George VI, and again at the coronation of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953
Dr Fletcher said that it was usual in the past for an existing crown to be adapted for a Queen consort ‘so recycling one in this way is a return to tradition, as well as being rather less extravagant’.
He added: ‘Queen Mary’s crown is a particularly elegant choice, with thin arches. As well as the Koh-i-Noor, it originally contained two other large diamonds, the Cullinan III and IV, which were later removed and worn as a brooch by Queen Mary and later by her granddaughter Elizabeth II, who called them “Granny’s chips”.
‘It is a nice touch that those are to be re-set in the crown for use in May, along with the Cullinan V, which had previously appeared on it when Queen Mary wore it again at the coronation in 1937.’ The Cullinan diamonds were cut from the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, in 1908.
Cullinan III and IV were set into Queen Mary’s crown for the coronation of George V in 1911. Cullinan V was inserted when the crown was worn by Queen Mary as a regal circlet (without any of the arches) at the coronation of her son George VI in 1937. St Edward’s crown, which will be used for the coronation of the King, has now returned to public display at the Tower following the completion of modification work.
The coronation is also expected to feature the Cullinan I, also known as the Star of Africa, which is set in the sovereign’s sceptre with cross.