Lena Login watched as an emissary from the Tower of London, escorted by yeoman warders, entered the drawing room. He carried a small casket in his hands, which the queen opened delicately. She showed the open box to Albert and together they walked over to where Duleep stood on the dais. Looking up at him, she called: ‘Maharajah, I have something to show you!’ Duleep Singh stepped down and moved towards her, not knowing what to expect. She took the jewel from its box and dropped it into his outstretched hand, asking him ‘if he thought it improved, and if he would have recognised it again?
The maharaja walked towards the window, and held the diamond to the sunlight. It was so much smaller than he remembered. It was the wrong shape. It felt so much lighter in his hand. However, it was still the Koh-i-Noor, and the very touch of it transported him: ‘for all his air of polite interest and curiosity,’ wrote Lena Login, ‘there was a passion of repressed emotion in his face … evident, I think, to Her Majesty, who watched him with sympathy not unmixed with anxiety …’
Time seemed to slow, as the awkwardness in the room grew. ‘At last, as if summoning up his resolution after a profound struggle and with a deep sigh he raised his eyes from the jewel …’ I was prepared for almost anything,’ recalled Lena Login, ‘even to seeing him, in a sudden fit of madness, fling the precious talisman out of the open window by which he stood! [My own and] the other spectators’ nerves were equally on edge – [as] he moved deliberately to where her Majesty was standing bowing before her, Duleep gently put the gem into Queen Victoria’s hand. ‘It is to me, Ma’am, the greatest pleasure thus to have the opportunity, as a loyal subject, of myself tendering to my Sovereign – the Koh-i-Noor!!’ The maharaja had presented to the queen something that no longer belonged to him. Neither Duleep, nor any of his family, would ever come so close to the diamond again.
Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond,
William Dalrymple, Anita Anand.