The controversial colonial-era Kohinoor diamond claimed by India is to be cast as a “symbol of conquest” as part of a new display of Britain’s Crown Jewels at the Tower of London set to open to the public in May.
Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), the charity that manages Britain’s palaces, said this week that the new Jewel House exhibition will explore the history of the Kohinoor – also known as Koh-i-Noor – through a combination of objects and visual projections.
The infamous diamond, which is set within the Crown of the mother of the late Queen Elizabeth II, remains within the Tower after Camilla – in a diplomatic move – chose not to use this traditional crown for her coronation with King Charles II on May 6.
“The history of the Koh-i-Noor, which is set within the Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, will be explored,” HRP said, with reference to the new planned display.
“A combination of objects and visual projections will explain the stone’s story as a symbol of conquest, with many previous owners, including Mughal Emperors, Shahs of Iran, Emirs of Afghanistan, and Sikh Maharajas,” it said.
Kohinoor, which means mountain of light in Persian, came into Queen Victoria’s possession from the treasury of Maharaja Ranjit Singh a few years before she was to be crowned empress of India and has played a starring role in British coronations of the past.
It will now take centre-stage at the new post-Coronation exhibition at the Tower of London.
“We look forward to expanding the stories we are telling about the Crown Jewels, and to showcasing this remarkable collection for millions of visitors from around the world to enjoy,” said Andrew Jackson, Resident Governor of the Tower of London and Keeper of the Jewel House.
“We are delighted to unveil our brand-new Jewel House display from May 26, offering visitors a richer understanding of this magnificent collection. As the home of the Crown Jewels, we are delighted that the Tower of London will continue to play its part during this historic Coronation year,” he said.
The new exhibition will open just weeks after the Coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla, who will be crowned with the Queen Mary Crown. It marks the first major change to the Jewel House at the Tower of London for over a decade, which has been home to Britain’s Crown Jewels for nearly 400 years.
“The Crown Jewels are the most powerful symbols of the British monarchy and hold deep religious, historical, and cultural significance. From their fascinating origins to their use during the Coronation ceremony, the new Jewel House transformation will present the rich history of this magnificent collection with more depth and detail than ever before,” said Charles Farris, Public Historian for the History of the Monarchy at HRP.
Among some of the other changes, the story of the famous Cullinan diamond will also feature, with the hammer and knife used to make the first cuts to the huge diamond going on display in the Jewel House for the first time.
Discovered in South Africa in 1905, the diamond is the largest gem-quality uncut diamond ever found at 3,106 carats. It was split into nine major stones and 96 smaller brilliants, with the largest two stones featuring in the British Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and the Imperial State Crown.
At the heart of the new display will be a room dedicated to the spectacle, pageantry and community of the Coronation Procession.
The display will present Coronation Processions throughout history, celebrating the contributions of the many people who take part in these unique events.
On display will be a series of objects from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, including an exquisite court suit worn at the Coronation of George IV and a herald’s tabard which would have been worn during royal processions.
The display will culminate in the Treasury, the vault that protects most of the Crown Jewels collection, comprising over 100 objects in total. Among the spectacular items on display in the Treasury is St Edward’s Crown of 1661, which is used at the moment of crowning and is the most important and sacred crown within the collection.
The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and the Sovereign’s Orb, which are presented to the monarch during the moment of investiture, are also on display in the Treasury.
New lighting will allow visitors to experience the world-famous collection like never before, HRP claimed of the re-presentation which is the culmination of a major four-year project.
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