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by Lino DaCunha Gomes

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. So goes an old adage. The uneasiness becomes agonizing when the head-wear bears a jewel which imparts bad luck to some Royals.

The crown which has been worn by recent British monarchs is adorned with a flawless diamond called Kohinoor which means "Mountain of light". The gem was mined near the ancient city of Golconda in South India in the late 13th century. It was reported that the Raja of Malwa was the first owner. King Baber took possession of the jewel in about 1500 and for the following two centuries, it was among the precious stones in the treasury of the Mogul emperors. The Mogul palace was looted by Nadir Shah of Persia in about 1700 and he got hold of the diamond. After Nadir Shah’s assassination, it wound up in the hands of the Sikhs. The last Sikh monarch to have possession of Kohinoor was Maharaja Duleep Singh. It is claimed that in 1846 the 8 year old Duleep was made to sign away the diamond to the British who ruled in India at that time.

The jewel was presented to Queen Victoria who willed it to her daughter-in-law Queen Alexander. She wore it at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. The stone was subsequently placed in the crown of Queen Elizabeth, the consort of King George VI. The Kohinoor is now found in the crown of Queen Elizabeth II.

The writer is not aware of any bad luck that may have affected the British monarchs from Queen Victoria to King George VI except that Queen Victoria’s husband Albert, the Price Consort died at age 41. King Edward VIII had to abdicate his throne as a result of his marriage commitment to an American divorcee named Wallis Simpson, who was born out of wedlock; and subsequently King George VI died of cancer at the age of 57. However, the current monarch of Great Britain has experienced a series of misfortunes. The Windsor Castle caught fire in 1992. During the following years, the Duke and Duchess of York were separated. Princess Anne divorced Captain Mark Phillips. The marriage of Prince and Princess of Wales wound up in divorce and recently, Princess Diana died in an auto accident in Paris. The bad luck has been qualified by Queen Elizabeth as "annus horribilis".

The newspaper "India Abroad" published an article, a few months ago, stating that Beant Singh Sandawalia of Amristar, claims to be the legal heir to the Kohinoor diamond. An inquiry ordered by the Punjab State Government established Sandawalia to be the heir to the last Sikh ruler. Sandawalia was in the process of writing to Queen Elizabeth demanding restitution of the precious jewel. He told "India Abroad" that he would donate it to the Sikh museum at the Golden Temple in Amristar. The British monarchs may be relieved of headaches if Kohinoor is returned to India.

The crown of Queen Elizabeth II, depicted in the rendering is adorned with emeralds, pearls, rubies, sapphires etc. The Kohinoor diamond is located at its base; at least that was the case when this writer saw it in 1973 in a museum in the Tower of London, England. Most information contained in this article was obtained from "Questions for Gems" by G. S. Swatter, in the National Geographic magazine, the Duchess of Windsor by Charles Higham, The Royals by Kitty Kelley and India Abroad.