The British ransacked India in the 200 years they ruled it, but none of those treasures can overshadow the Koh-I-Noor, the jewel of India that has been the cause of debate for centuries now. How did an empire trick a child into giving up the most precious diamond in the world?
A Bloody Legacy
Duleep Singh, the last Indian owner of the Koh-I-Noor, was the last in line after a bloody massacre of the hopefuls to the Punjab throne. Sher Singh, the then king was shot in the chest and face, allegedly by mistake by cousins and his son was cut to pieces. Dhian Singh, the vizier who had survived 3 kings in his career was murdered shortly afterwards. Sher Singh’s only competition to the throne, Rani Chand Kaur’s skull was brutally crushed by her maids as they combed her hair – they would later claim they had orders from Sher Singh himself.
2.The British Make A Move
Rani Jindan Kaur, the daughter of a kennel keeper, was now the Queen Regent of one of Asia’s biggest empires. Her brother, who she had appointed as the vizier, was murdered brutally by the Khalsa as she and her son watched as a result of one grave mistake. When many thought it might dissuade her from furthering her rule, she returned with dignity and grace after a few weeks to rule with an iron hand. However, the British were watching her court, which was filled with older courtiers who wished the young Queen Mother ill – and they decided to use them to their advantage.
3.Anglo – Sikh Wars Begin
The British Governor General Sir Henry Hardinge declared war on the Sikhs when they pushed back an encroachment in 1845, and as the first of the Anglo Sikh wars began, little did Jindan know that her closest men had betrayed her. Lal Singh & Tej Singh, the vizier and the commander of the Sikh army had enabled the British takeover.
4. Paying Your Own Captor
Even though they had won on the battlefield, The British were still painfully aware that the empire itself was massive, and may not be as easy to handle. So, they solidified their claim as the maharaja’s friends. Signing a treaty stating that they would stay as guardians till he was sixteen after which he would become sovereign, they set about ‘handling’ the kingdom, which basically meant replacing Sikh loyalists with the British sympathisers. One such replacement in Mulraj ended up as a bloody mob decimating British representatives, giving the British its final chance to solidify its claim to the throne of Punjab.
5. ‘I have caught my hare.’
Meanwhile, Jindan Kaur, being the only one to see the British’s reality, was imprisoned and separated from her son. They branded the Mulraj uprising as a traitorous loss of British troops and wealth and in turn, created a new document that essentially meant the handover of the throne of Punjab, and most importantly, the jewel that it prized, the Koh-I-Noor.
Read more about the tragic history behind the seizure of the diamond, the intrigue, the murder and the bravery that your history books didn’t cover in ‘Diamond Siezed!’, which will be free as answer to our Question of the Day on 11th July!