Don’t Call Me Resilient

What the stories of the Crown Jewels tell us about exploitation and the quest for reparations

Episode Summary

Although King Charles will have a low-key ceremony, the Crown Jewels will still figure prominently. An exploration of the story of the jewels tells a tale of exploitation, rape and pillage.

Episode Notes

Although King Charles will have a low-key ceremony on his coronation day this May 6, the Crown Jewels will still figure prominently. An exploration of the story of the jewels tells a tale of brutal exploitation, rape and the original looting. Join us on Don't Call Me Resilient to follow the jewels.  

Much of what was called the British Empire was built from stolen riches - globally - and also from India.

In fact, India was such an abundant contributor to the Crown that at the time of its occupation of South Asia, Britain called India the Jewel in its Crown.  

India was called this because of its location — easy access to the silk route, but mostly because of its vast human and natural resources: things like cotton, and tea and of course its abundance of jewels.

Literally, the brightest jewel in Britain’s Crown is the Koh-i-Noor diamond.  

It is considered one of the world’s largest and most valued diamonds and it usually sits on top of the Crown of Queen Mary.

It has a controversial history  — namely that it was “surrendered” to the British by an Indian 10-year-old boy whose mother had been imprisoned and whose father had recently died. It’s likely for that reason, that it won’t be on display at the coronation. But plenty of other jewels will be part of the ceremony. 

There is the five-pound gold St. Edward’s Crown that Charles will be officially crowned with, the Sovereign's Sceptre, which has the Great Star of Africa diamond in it and the Imperial State Crown, which is set with almost 3,000 diamonds - including another Star of Africa.

Joining me to explore the history and meaning behind these jewels is Annie St. John-Stark, assistant professor of British history at Thompson Rivers University. Also here today is: Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, sessional instructor of history at both the University of the Fraser Valley and the University of British Columbia. Her recently completed PhD reimagines museums as spaces of belonging.  

Both historians on today's episode believe change is possible with a redress: of how the histories of the Crown Jewels are told and also how wealth is redistributed.  

And actually, if recent polls are to be believed, although many will be out celebrating (any excuse for a party, right?) the pomp of the coronation along with its display of the Crown Jewels does not reflect the attitudes of modern Britain. The most recent poll available indicates only 32 per cent of Britons believe the Empire is something to be proud of  — that is down almost 25 per cent from a 2014 poll. That means, attitudes are changing quickly.  

Will the Royal Family catch up?