William Dalrymple wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was just twenty-two. Since then, he has had seven more books published and won numerous awards for his writing, including the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award, the Duff Cooper Memorial Award, the Hemingway Prize and the Ryszard Kapuscinski Award for Literary Reportage. He lives with his wife and three children on a farm outside Delhi.
The first comprehensive and authoritative history of the Koh-i-Noor, arguably the most celebrated and mythologised jewel in the world.
On 29 March 1849, the ten-year-old maharaja of the Punjab was ushered into the magnificent Mirrored Hall at the centre of the great fort in Lahore. There, in a public ceremony, the frightened but dignified child handed over great swathes of the richest country in India in a formal Act of Submission to a private corporation, the East India Company. He was also compelled to hand over to the British monarch, Queen Victoria, perhaps the single most valuable object on the subcontinent: the celebrated Koh-i Noor diamond. The Mountain of Light.
The history of the Koh-i-Noor that was then commissioned by the British may have been one woven together from gossip of Delhi bazaars, but it was to become the accepted version. Only now is it finally challenged, freeing the diamond from the fog of mythology that has clung to it for so long. The resulting history is one of greed, murder, torture, colonialism and appropriation told through an impressive slice of south and central Asian history. It ends with the jewel in its current controversial setting: in the crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Masterly, powerful and erudite, this is history at its most compelling and invigorating.