Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (IX).

Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (IX).

(Ann Morrow, „Highness. The Maharajahs of India”, Cap. 4 „As Plentiful as Blackberries”)

The jewel was handed for safekeeping to John Lawrence, one of the Company’ s administrators in Lahore, who promptly forgot all about it. Eventually, reminded that the Queen was enquiring about her gift. Lawrence raced to his bungalow and asked an old servant to unwrap it from the raggy piece of cloth in which it was kept. ‘Sahib, there is nothing here but a bit of glass.’ The Koh-i-Noor, the Mountain of Light, was safe. It sat securely on Queen Victoria’ s parted hair in a brilliant tiara of 2,000 diamonds.

The diamond was to sit on a succession of royal heads, beautiful Queen Alexandra, stately Queen Mary, the appealing and sympathetic Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and her daughter the present Queen. When the Duke of York became King George VI the original tiara, a circle of roses, was broken up and used for the Queen Mother when she was crowned Queen in 1937. The present crown has the Koh-i-Noor with eight horseshoes of diamonds and, as it is believed to be unlucky for male rulers, it will be seen on the fair hair of the Princess of Wales on the day she becomes Queen.

Necklaces for the Indian Princes were heavy with fringes of berries and leaves of sapphires, rubies and pearls. Queen Victoria may have been robust enough to carry such stomachers with doughty aplomb but not her beautiful, fluttery daughter-in-law Princess Alexandra, who was almost sixty when she became Queen Consort. She was not given access to the royal jewels until her mother-in-law’ s reluctant departure to join her beloved Albert in 1901.

Six months after Queen Victoria’ s death, Pierre Cartier was summoned to Buckingham Palace to convert an ornate Indian necklace into something the new queen could wear. He used 94 emeralds, 17 pearls and 13 cabochon rubies from the sumptuous piece and created an Edwardian jabot. This was the celebrated collier resille which looked superb with the Queen’ s high cheeckbones and upswept hair. Alexandra longed to visit India. ‘I was not allowed to go when I wished it so very, very much,’ she told her son George V, and she never forgave Edward VII for going without her in 1875 when he was Prince of Wales. It was hardly his fault for Queen Victoria did not like either of them out of her sight. Only with the greatest reluctance did she allow him off for six months to check the Indian Empire.

-to be continued-

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