William Dalrymple on the Koh-i-Noor diamond, colonialism and Brexit
On 29 March 1849, the ten-year year-old Maharaja of the Punjab, Duleep Singh, was ushered into the magnificent Shish Mahal, the Mirrored Hall throne room at the centre of the great Fort of Lahore. The boy’s father, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was long dead, and his mother, Rani Jindan, had been forcibly removed and incarcerated in a palace outside the city. Now Duleep Singh found himself surrounded by a group of grave-looking men wearing red coats and plumed hats, who talked among themselves in an unfamiliar language. In the terrors of the minutes that followed, the frightened but dignified child finally yielded to months of pressure. In a public ceremony in front of what was left of the nobility of his court, he signed a formal Act of Submission. Within minutes, the flag of the Sikh Khalsa was lowered and the Union flag run up above the Fort.