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Brilliance at the Tower of London

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

Who could turn down an after hours private tour of the crown jewels with the Chief Warden? Not us.

We headed over the drawbridge and behind the meter thick walls of the Tower for some twinkly and glamorous after dark Christmas times. First stop was the jewel house, where we got to get up close and personal with the contents of the Queen's jewellery box.

Koh-i-Noor - always in demand

The Koh-i-Noor is not only the brightest and biggest brilliant in the room, it's also arguably the best traveled. Although today the diamond is set in the front of the Queen Mother's Crown, governments in India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have all claimed ownership and demanded its return in recent decades. The British government insists the gem was obtained legally under the terms of the Treaty of India. But then it would.

A long journey

After being passed through many hands and families - India, to Persia (where it got its name Koh-i-Noor - or "mountain of light"), Afghanistan to Pakistan and back again, it came to  Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Maharajah willed the diamond to the East India Company administered Hindu temple of Jagannath in Puri, in modern-day Odisha, India. But, after his death in 1839, his will was not executed.

On 29 March 1849, after the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the Kingdom of Punjab was formally annexed to Company rule. The Last Treaty of Lahore was then signed, officially ceding the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria.

High handed handling

The Governor-General in charge of the diamond was the Marquess of Dalhousie. And the way he handled it was criticized by contemporaries in Britain. He could easily have presented it as a gift to Queen Victoria from the East India Company. But it seems clear that Dalhousie strongly believed the stone was a spoil of war. He ended up making Maharaja Duleep Singh, the youngest son of Ranjit Singh officially surrender it to the Queen.

This diamond is a girl's best friend - definitely not for men

As the diamond's history involves a great deal of fighting between men, the Koh-i-Noor acquired a reputation within the British royal family for bringing bad luck to any man who wears it. Since arriving in the country, it has only ever been worn by female members of the family.

How to shine in your career

We also met with Zara Wright of Perrett Laver, a headhunter who includes national museums among her client list. She's seeking out the next generation of museum directors and told us organisations are being increasingly explicit about wanting to see diverse candidates. Good news.

She gave us insight into what employers were looking for and explained how leaders are appointed. Her top tip? Become a trustee and aim a bit higher than you think you should.


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