Most people would be surprised to know how many of the priceless gemstones owned by the British royal family were mined in India, once the crown jewel of the British Empire, or the fact that some of them are supposedly cursed.
Take the Black Prince’s Ruby, set in the Imperial State Crown of England. It’s really a spinel, not a ruby (the difference is in the geology of the stone, but why quibble?). Fact is it’s honking big.
How big? Queen Elizabeth I once showed it to Mary Stuart’s Scottish envoy, who described it as “great as a racket ball.” It’s been in the royal family since the 14th century, when it was given to Edward, the first Prince of Wales. Not long after, Edward contracted a mysterious disease that eventually killed him.
After being owned by Henry V, who supposedly wore it when he nearly died at the Battle of Agincourt, and Richard III, killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the ruby passed to Charles I, who, if you remember your history, was gruesomely beheaded.
Still, some people claim that Charles I’s beheading took place only after he pawned the infamous Sancy Diamond.
Mined and cut in India, the pale-yellow Sancy was said to bring violent death to anyone who owned it. Charles inherited the gem from his father, King James I of England and VI of Scotland, who was nearly assassinated in The Gunpowder Plot in 1605. Maybe Charles should have pawned it sooner and fled to warmer climes.
The rare blue Hope Diamond was owned for a time by King George IV, although it was sold after his death to settle the enormous debts he racked up as the Prince Regent, of Regency Era fame. And don’t forget that the prince’s father, George III, lost the American colonies in the Revolutionary War and eventually went mad. If that’s not a curse, what is?
Maybe the most notorious of the British crown jewels is the Kohinoor Diamond (Kohinoor is Persian for “mountain of light”). Mined in India centuries ago, it’s referenced in an ancient text that warns: He who owns this diamond will own the world but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.
Luckily, only royal females have worn it from the time it was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850. The late Queen Mum had it set in her coronation crown and also wore it during the crowning of her daughter, Elizabeth II, in 1953.
It’s likely that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will wear the same crown at the future coronation of her husband Charles, Prince of Wales—hopefully without incident.