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The Koh-i-noor diamond will stay in Britain, says Cameron

The Koh-i-noor diamond will stay in Britain, says Cameron as he rules out returning gem to India on final day of visit
David Cameron says the Koh-i-noor diamond, which Britain forced India to over in the colonial era, will not be returned.

The Prime Minister ruled out handing back the 105-carat diamond during a speech on the third and final day of a visit to India aimed at drumming up trade and investment.

The diamond is set in the crown of the late Queen Mother and is on display with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

'The right answer is for the British Museum and other cultural institutions to do exactly what they do, which is to link up with other institutions around the world to make sure that the things which we have and look after so well are properly shared with people around the world.

'I certainly don't believe in "returnism", as it were. I don't think that's sensible.'

Yesterday Mr Cameron became the first serving prime minister to voice regret about the Amritsar massacre - when 379 unarmed civilians were killed in April 1919 under the rule of the British Empire, though the official death toll is disputed.

Mr Cameron said: 'I don't think that's the right approach.'
'It is the same question with the Elgin Marbles,' he said, referring to the classical Greek marble sculptures that Greece has long demanded be given back.

Britain's then colonial governor-general of India arranged for the huge diamond to be presented to Queen Victoria in 1850.

If the Duchess of Cambridge becomes queen consort she will wear the crown holding the diamond on official occasions. It has only been worn by female royals, including the Queen Mother and Queen Mary, because it is said to be unlucky for men to do so.

When Elizabeth II made a state visit to India to mark the 50th anniversary of India's independence from Britain in 1997, many Indians demanded the return of the diamond.

Mr Cameron's is keen to tap into India's economic rise, but says he is anxious to focus on the present and future rather than 'reach back' into the past.

The Koh-i-noor, which means 'Mountain of Light' in Urdu, was first recorded in 1306. A Hindu text at the time said: 'Only God or woman can wear it with impunity'.

Rulers fought over it for centuries before Britain took it as part of the Treaty of Lahore, when it took control of the Punjab, in 1849.

The jewel was seized by the Empire's East India Company as one of the spoils of war and presented to Queen Victoria in 1850.

Prince Albert ordered the diamond, then weighing 186 carats, be recut to improve its brilliance.

It was reduced in weight by 42 per cent and cut into an oval brilliant weighing 109 carats.

The Koh-i-noor was then mounted into Victoria's crown among 2,000 other diamonds.

It passed to consorts Queen Alexandra in 1902 and Queen Mary in 1911 for their coronation crowns and then to the late Queen Mother in 1937, being set in a Maltese Cross.

The Queen Mother's crown is on display in the Tower of London with the Crown Jewels. It sat on top of her coffin as she lay in state in Westminster Hall in 2002.

The diamond is the third largest in the Crown collection, behind the Cullinan 1 and 2 jewels cut from the Cullinan diamond - the largest rough diamond ever found. They are set in the Sovereign's sceptre with cross and the Imperial State Crown.

Indian and Pakistani authorities have long demanded the diamond's return. In 1976, prime minister Jim Callaghan refused a request to hand it back, writing: 'I need not remind you of the various hands through which the stone has passed over the past two centuries, nor that explicit provision for its transfer to the British Crown was made in the peace treaty with the Maharajah of Lahore which concluded the war of 1849.

'I could not advise Her Majesty the Queen that it should be surrendered.'

Dail Mail: By Helen Lawson
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