Culture or Plunder?

Russell Chamberlin assesses claims for the return of cultural treasures.

A few years ago, Bernie Grant MP demanded that Great Britain should ‘return’ the Crown Jewels to Africa. He did not specify which African country should receive the Jewels; neither did he specify exactly which Crown Jewels should be returned.

There are two sets of regalia in the United Kingdom. There is the set known as the Honours of Scotland, which have never left Scotland. There is also the English set, in which the Spoon and the Ampulla antedate the coronation of Charles II. Additions were made to this set during the Victorian Empire, and the most spectacular of these are the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the crown made for George V and the Delhi Durbar of 1911, composed of diamonds donated by the maharajahs of India. If anything is to be returned by anybody anywhere, the Koh-i-Noor might be ‘returned’ to Pakistan – which did not exist when the British acquired the jewel – or the diamonds of the Delhi crown to the descendants of the maharajahs who donated them.

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