The first comprehensive and authoritative history of the Koh-i Noor, arguably the most celebrated and mythologised jewel in the world.
On 29 March 1849, the ten-year-old Maharajah of the Punjab was ushered into the magnificent Mirrored Hall at the centre of the great Fort in Lahore. There, in a public ceremony, the frightened but dignified child handed over to the British East India Company in a formal Act of Submission to Queen Victoria not only swathes of the richest land in India, but also arguably the single most valuable object in the subcontinent: the celebrated Koh-i Noor diamond. The Mountain of Light.
The history of the Koh-i-Noor that was then commissioned by the British may have been one woven together from gossip of Delhi Bazaars, but it was to be become the accepted version. Only now is it finally challenged, freeing the diamond from the fog of mythology which has clung to it for so long. The resulting history is one of greed, murder, torture, colonialism and appropriation through an impressive slice of south and central Asian history. It ends with the jewel in its current controversial setting: in the crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Masterly, powerful and erudite, this is history at its most compelling and invigorating.
It was clearly something that contains so much misinformation and clearly ignites so much passion, and so it’s an incredibly important subject. We decided to write it after the ridiculous statement that the Indian Attorney General made last year that [Maharaja] Ranjit Singh had given it to the British freely. It wasn’t Ranjit Singh, and it wasn’t given freely. Ranjit Singh was in fact dead by the time the Kohinoor passed to the British in 1849, as part of the Treaty of Lahore [which marked the end of the second Anglo-Sikh war]. One of the main stipulations of the peace treaty was that the diamond goes to the Queen [of England]. So it wasn’t a gift, and that was what had us persuaded.