The recent discovery of a colonial-era document from the India Office archives, which was responsible for British rule over the Indian subcontinent, has provided new insights into the valuable gems and jewels that were acquired by the British Royal family.
In an investigation into into the wealth and finances of the British monarchy as part of its ongoing "Cost of the Crown" series, in light of the upcoming Coronation of King Charles III, The Guardian reported on the findings from a 46-page file that was commissioned by Queen Mary, the grandmother of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
This file, which has been described as a remarkable discovery, contains a detailed investigation into the origins of the Queen's jewels.
The investigation includes references to various precious items, including an emerald-encrusted gold girdle that was originally used to adorn horses in the stables of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. This girdle is now part of King Charles' personal collection of royal treasures.
Noting that the items described are now owned by King Charles III as property of the British Crown, The Guardian investigation revealed, "The report, from 1912, explains how priceless pieces, including Charles's emerald belt, were extracted from India as trophies of conquest and later given to Queen Victoria.”
Moreover, the discoveries included a journal which recorded a 1837 tour of Punjab by British society diarist Fanny Eden and her brother George, Britain’s Governor General at the time, who visited the former Maharaja of the Sikh Empire Ranjit Singh.
Eden had noted:
“He (Ranjit Singh) puts his very finest jewels on his horses, and the splendour of their harness and housings surpasses anything you can imagine…If ever we are allowed to plunder this kingdom, I shall go straight to their stables.”
After Ranjit Singh’s son and heir Duleep Singh signed Punjab over to the East India company, historical records accessed by The Guardian noted that the kingdom’s stables would have been among several targets of plunder.
Moreover, the investigation found that the Koh-i-Noor, one of the largest cut diamonds in the world, came into Queen Victoria’s possession after East India Company officials’ plunder across India.
Another jewel identified in the 46-page-document was a “short necklace of four very large spinel rubies,” the largest of which was identified as a 325.5-carat spinel called the Timur ruby
Moreover, a pearl necklace consisting of 224 large pearls, which is also believed to have come from Ranjit Singh, was also mentioned in the document.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had told The Guardian, "We have finally entered an era where colonial loot and pillage is being recognised for what it really was, rather than being dressed up as the incidental spoils of some noble 'civilising mission.’”
"As we are seeing increasingly, the return of stolen property is always a good thing. Generations to come will wonder why it took civilised nations so long to do the right thing," the Thiruvananthapuram MP and author of ‘Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India' said.
Moreover, the investigation claimed that rather than any moral concern around the jewellery’s colonial origins, Queen Mary’s interest in their origins appears to have been prompted by her curiosity regarding the origin of some of her pearls.
The Guardian quoted a Buckingham Palace spokesperson who said that issues of slavery and colonialism were ones that King Charles III "takes profoundly seriously.”