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Death of Queen Elizabeth II: is it time to return the crown jewels?

The curtain fell on the pomp and pageantry of the past two weeks, which included the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the transition period between the second Elizabethan reign and the reign of King Charles II. We saw it all – a gun carriage carrying the monarch’s coffin, marching bands, the Household Cavalry, royals keeping vigil and, of course, the queue.

But what really caught my eye during the proceedings was the Orb, the Scepter and, of course, the Imperial Crown that adorned Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin. The stunning crown is formed by an openwork gold frame, mounted with three huge stones and set with 2,868 diamonds in silver settings and colored stones in gold settings, including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 269 pearls.

At the front of the crown band is the large, brilliant, cushion-shaped Cullinan II, the second largest cut stone in the Cullianan Diamond, also known as the Second Star of Africa. This crown was made for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 but is closely based on a crown designed for Queen Victoria in 1838 by the then crown jewelers Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. Located within the Scepter is Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa. The diamond is cut from a larger gem that was mined in South Africa in 1905, weighs around 3,106 carats in its original state and is said to be the size of an average human heart.

The Queen’s death and the fact that the crown jewels are so clearly on display have rekindled conversations about Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and her legacy of colonialism. These conversations have led to calls for these diamonds to be returned to South Africa with immediate effect. Social media has been inundated with users demanding that the diamonds be returned and displayed in a South African museum, and that reparations be paid. Over 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for the diamonds to be returned to South Africa immediately by the British Royal Family.

Diamonds have a dubious history. They were discovered in a mine in 1905 and were quickly purchased by South Africa’s then British-controlled Transvaal government and presented to the then monarch, King Edward VII, as a birthday present. Many say that the mining networks at that time were illegal due to colonial rule – the British took over the mine and stole the land that belonged to the local people. The royal family has indeed received a diamond that was stolen in the first place, and now it’s time to return it.

In this April 5, 2002 file photo, the Koh-i-noor, or ‘mountain of light’ diamond, set in the Maltese cross at the front of the crown made for Britain’s late Queen Mother Elizabeth, is seen on his coffin. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, file)

There are also calls for the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is set in a crown made for Queen Elizabeth I, to be returned to India as well after being taken by the British East India Company under duress in the years 1840.

It was part of an exhibition in 1851 and a few people dared to point out that the diamond was part of an operation to pillage India by the British but these pleas were largely ignored.

Prince Consort Albert had the diamond cut to mitigate the scandal and it later became the focal point of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary’s crowns before the magnificent jewel was finally set in the Queen Mother’s crown in 1937 He was part of the crown jewels. from.

Some might say it’s an insensitive time to discuss requests for certain Crown Jewels, but is there ever a good time to discuss uncomfortable topics? If there’s one thing about such a public, collective outpouring of grief, it’s that it shakes you up and creates space for uncomfortable conversations. What cannot be ignored are the legitimate concerns of the citizens of the countries from which the diamonds originate that they have been appropriated by colonialism and therefore must be returned.

Earlier this year, the Horniman Museum in London announced that it would return a collection of 72 objects called Benin Bronzes to the Nigerian government. Horniman’s collection is a small part of the 3,000 to 5,000 artifacts taken from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 when British soldiers attacked and occupied Benin City as Britain expanded its political and commercial influence in West Africa. .

The British Museum alone holds over 900 artefacts from Benin, and National Museums Scotland has a further 74. Others have been distributed to museums around the world. They are also facing increased pressure to return these items to Nigeria where they will be displayed at the Edo West African Art Museum, which is due to open in 2025.

The case of the Benin Bronzes shows that with proper consultation and conversation, artifacts can be returned to their rightful homes.

I’m not saying we’re attacking the Tower of London and unveiling the crown jewels, but at the dawn of this new era of monarchy, it’s time for King Charles III and his heir Prince William, the new prince of Wales, to look at the colonial past of the royal family and the riches acquired by it and if these elements have a place in the multicultural future of their kingdom.

Returning jewelry and artifacts to their place is a good place to start.

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