Shortly after British monarch Queen Elizabeth II passed away on Sept. 8, the word “Kohinoor” began trending on Indian Twitter.
It was a reference to one of the world’s most famous gems. The Kohinoor diamond is just one of 2,800 stones set in the crown that Elizabeth wore at her coronation in 1953—but the 105-carat oval-shaped brilliant is the proverbial jewel in the crown.
The British acquired it in India.
History of the Kohinoor
It was 793 carats in weight when it was found during the Kakatiyan Dynasty (12th-14th century). It was first recorded as belonging to the Moguls during the 16th century. Next, the Persians took it and the Afghans followed.
Ranjit Singh (Sikh Maharajah) brought the item back to India, after he took it from Shah Shujah Durrani, an Afghan leader. It was later acquired by the British in the annexed Punjab. After Maharajah Dunjeep Singh, ten years old, had to give up his land and other possessions in order to obtain the stone, the East India Company took control of it in the 1840s.
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It was then presented by the company to Queen Victoria. Prince Albert, her consort, asked for it to be recut and it was set in the crowns of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary before being placed in the Queen Mother’s crown in 1937.
It was Elizabeth’s crown when she took the throne. Although the Kohinoor is part of British Crown Jewels since that time, governments in India, Afghanistan and Pakistan all claim the diamond.
Crown of Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother. Featuring the famed Kohinoor Diamond. Photographed April 19, 1994.
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Britain’s controversial possession of the Kohinoor diamond
While there are no current plans, Indian Twitter users have demanded its return.
“If the King is not going to wear Kohinoor, give it back,” wrote one.
Other said the diamond “was stolen” by the British, who “created wealth” from “death,” “famine” and “looting.”
It is not the first time that the diamond’s return has been sought. Upon India’s independence in 1947, the government asked for the diamond back. India made another demand in the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. These demands fell on deaf ears, with the U.K. arguing that there are no legal grounds for the Kohinoor’s restitution to India.
Saurav Dutt (a British-Indian political commentator) says there are very slim chances that the U.K. will return the crown.
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True, the British recently facilitated the return of the Benin Bronzes—72 artifacts looted by British soldiers in the 19th century—to the Nigerian government. But Dutt says the British royal establishment is still “married to this romantic version of empire, even though it is long dead, and has lost its power.” The Kohinoor is a symbol of that power, Dutt argues, and in turning it over, he believes the Royals “would essentially be eviscerating themselves.”
At the very least, King Charles III must acknowledge the “black history” of the Kohinoor diamond, Dutt says.
“A recognition of the fact that it was obtained through stealth and deception would be a significant step at this stage, that lays the groundwork for the next generation to be able to give it back,” he tells TIME.
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