The world will be watching as King Charles III formally ascends the British throne in a coronation ceremony Saturday, just as his own mother, Elizabeth II, did 70 years ago. From monarch to monarch now passes the crown – actually, a few of them.
The jewels that adorn that regalia, including some of the largest diamonds in the world, are seen as some of Britain’s greatest treasures and help lend powerful symbolism to this ancient ritual. But their histories tell a more complicated story – some steeped in the legacy of colonialism.
A new petition in South Africa has collected 8,000 signatures so far demanding that the largest Cullinan Diamond – known as the Great Star of Africa and part of the coronation scepter – be sent back to its home of origin. While the South African government has not made a formal claim to it, politicians and activists have demanded its return in the past.
Among European monarchs, gemstones have long been used as a show of power and status, passed down again and again from ruler to successor, said Justin Vovk, a doctoral fellow in history at McMaster University in Ontario.
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