Queen Camilla Avoids Diamond Controversy With Coronation Crown Choice

Queen Camilla will avoid using a contentious diamond that is part of the British crown jewels for her coronation alongside King Charles III on May 6, according to Buckingham Palace.

Camilla was widely expected to wear the Queen Mother's crown, used by Queen Elizabeth at her coronation in 1937, in which is set the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a stone with disputed ownership considered by many to be a spoil of Britain's colonialist past.

Instead, she will wear Queen Mary's crown, which was created in 1911 for the consort of King George V (Charles' great-grandfather), which sidesteps the use of the Koh-i-Noor diamond that had previously been set in Queen Mary's crown and has been replaced with a facsimile.

"Queen Mary's Crown has been removed from display at the Tower of London for modification work ahead of the Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort on Saturday, 6th May 2023," said a statement from Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

Queen Camilla and Queen Mary's Crown
Queen Camilla photographed at Buckingham Palace, November 22, 2022. And (inset) Queen Mary's crown made in 1911. She will wear Queen Mary's crown at the coronation on May 6. Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Bettmann

Camilla breaks with the tradition of recent queen consorts by not having a new crown made especially for her coronation. The reasoning behind the choice of using an older crown was given as being mindful of "the interests of sustainability and efficiency."

For Camilla's use, Queen Mary's crown will be re-set with genuine stones, notably the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds which were formerly the personal property of Queen Elizabeth II inherited from her grandmother, Mary, and which had been included as part of the crown when it was made.

The minor changes being made by the crown jewelers reflect "the Consort's individual style," according to a palace press release.

Discussion surrounding which crown Camilla would wear to the coronation and whether it would include the 105-karat Koh-i-Noor began to arise after the death of Queen Elizabeth II and was reported by a number of media outlets including Tatler, Hello! and Cosmopolitan.

The diamond entered the British royal collection in 1848 through the Last Treaty of Lahore signed after the second Anglo-Sikh war and later amended. At the time the stone was in the possession of the 10-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh who surrendered it to Queen Victoria.

Victoria displayed the stone in its original setting as an armlet at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and the following year it was cut and reset on the instructions of Prince Albert.

Since then, it has been worn by Britain's queens, though Queen Elizabeth II is not understood to have worn the stone during her 70-year reign, with calls for it to be returned to India arising after the country became independent in 1948.

Over successive years, calls for the diamond to be restored to India have been voiced. However, as recently as 2016, India's Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the country's supreme court, per Sky News, that Britain's ownership of the diamond is legitimate.

"It was given voluntarily by Ranjit Singh to the British as compensation for help in the Sikh Wars," he said. "The Koh-i-Noor is not a stolen object."

As of 2023, the Koh-i-Noor is kept at the Tower of London, set in the Queen Mother's crown, with the rest of the crown jewels.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek's royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek's The Royals Facebook page.

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