King Charles III was crowned yesterday May 7, 2023 as head of government in the United Kingdom, with the centuries-old St. Edward’s Crown, a piece of the Royal Family’s famous Crown Jewels, a collection known for its extravagance and controversies as they feature jewels mined from former United Kingdom colonies and Ivory from the controversial Ivory trade.
The coronation ceremony formally crowned King Charles III and Queen Camilla when the two were presented with traditional regalia featuring highly precious and controversial jewels.
Charles’s crown – St. Edward’s Crown, which was last used in 1953, to crown his mother, Elizabeth II, is more than 360 years old, stands one foot tall and weighs nearly five pounds.
The St. Edwards Crown is made of 22-carat gold and 444 precious and semiprecious stones, including 345 rose-cut aquamarines, 37 white topaz, 27 tourmalines, 12 rubies, seven amethysts, six sapphires, two jargoons, one garnet, one spinel and one carbuncle.
Camilla was decorated with Queen Mary’s crown, which has a gold-lined silver frame and 2,200 diamonds but without the controversial scepter that is made of Ivory from hunted elephants.
Camilla’s crown did not feature an infamous gem, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a 105.6-carat stone mined in India with a long, disputed history that is seen as a symbol of the United Kingdom’s colonial history.
Queen Mary’s crown was fitted with Elizabeth II’s Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds, which are 94.4, 63.6 and 18.8 metric carats respectively, though these gems have also faced criticism and calls to be returned to South Africa where the large Cullinan diamond was mined in 1905.
King Charles was presented with the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross, a golden rod featuring the 530.2-carat Cullinan I diamond (known as the “Great Star of Africa”).
India’s Bharatiya Janata party, of which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a member, says the Koh-i-Noor diamond “brings back painful memories of the colonial past.” The Indian government, as well as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan consider the gem to be rightfully theirs as its leaders have at times possessed the gem throughout its centuries-long history.
Even the Taliban has demanded the return of the gem to Afghanistan. Anti-monarchists ridiculed the use of Cullinan diamonds instead of the Koh-i-Noor for Camilla’s crown, which have also faced calls for their return to South Africa. South African lawyer and activist Mothusi Kamanga told Reuters: “The diamond needs to come to South Africa. It needs to be a sign of our pride, our heritage and our culture.”
Among the most notable critics of the Ivory trade is Prince William, who considers it “a symbol of destruction, not of luxury” and has called for a total ban to protect animals from being slaughtered.
The United Kingdom is facing renewed criticism for its long history of colonialism, historians say Britain has invaded 90% of the world’s countries, and 56 countries are still in the Commonwealth today.
Some Commonwealth countries, including Australia and several in the Caribbean, have expressed interest in becoming independent of the monarchy after Elizabeth II’s death, following in the footsteps of Barbados after it declared independence in 2021.
According to study, the “favorability of the monarchy has dropped significantly: The National Centre for Social Research found in April record-low approval of the monarchy with just 29% of respondents deeming it ‘very important,’ the lowest percentage since it started collecting data 40 years ago.”
(With files from Forbes)