Calls are mounting in South Africa for the British royal family to return the world’s largest known clear cut diamond following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Known as the Great Star of Africa or Cullinan I, the diamond is cut from a larger gem that was mined in South Africa in 1905 and given to the British Royal Family by South African colonial authorities. He is currently mounted on a royal scepter belonging to the Queen.
Demands for the return of the Great Star of Africa and other diamonds – as well as calls for repatriation – have intensified since the Queen’s death. Many South Africans view Britain’s acquisition of the jewelry as illegitimate.
A royal gift or a “stolen” diamond?
Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Imperial State Crown and carrying the orb and scepter after her coronation. Credit: Archives Hulton/Getty Images
“It was sent to Asscher from Amsterdam to be split in 1908,” he added.
Supporting the British Monarchy’s claim to the gemstone, the Royal Asscher explains that the gem was purchased by the South African Transvaal government (ruled by British rule) and presented to King Edward VII as a birthday present.
A professor of African politics at the University of South Africa, Everisto Benyera, rejects this account. He told CNN that “colonial transactions are illegitimate and immoral.”
“Our narrative is that the whole of the Transvaal and Union of South African governments and concurrent mining syndicates were illegal,” Benyera said, asserting that: “Receiving a stolen diamond does not exonerate the recipient. The Great Star is a blood diamond… The private (mining) company, the Transvaal government and the British Empire were part of a larger colonial network.”
According to the Royal Asscher, the Cullinan Diamond was cut into nine large stones and 96 smaller pieces. The largest of the stones was named the Great Star of Africa by King Edward VII, who also named the second largest cut stone the Lesser Star of Africa.
The largest diamond was set in the sovereign’s scepter with cross and the second cut stone was mounted in the imperial crown. Queen Elizabeth II has been seen in many portraits wearing these diamonds.
“The late Queen of England flaunted these (diamonds) for more than half a century,” said Leigh-Ann Mathys, national spokesperson for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), an opposition political party. South African, to CNN.
Mathys accused the British colonial powers of stealing land and appropriating indigenous-owned mines.
“Our call is for the repatriation of all colonial flights, of which the flight of the Great Star of Africa is one,” she said.
“We are not calling for its return, as it implies there was a valid agreement under which the British Royal Family borrowed the diamond. this country and elsewhere,” Mathys told CNN.