Crown Jewels Exhibition at Tower of London Sheds Light on Colonial Past

The Tower of London has revamped its Crown Jewels exhibit to depict a more candid narrative about its colonial past.
The updated exhibition highlights controversial historical events, including the acquisition of the Koh-i-noor diamond.
The Koh-i-noor diamond is recognized as a "symbol of conquest" and its controversial history is presented through new informational boards and an audiovisual display.
The Cullinan diamond's African origin is another jewel reconsidered in this newly contextualized display.
The transformation of the Jewel House has been a four-year project by Historic Royal Palaces in response to feedback from the local community.


In this article, we’ll delve into the intriguing transformation of the Crown Jewels exhibit at the Tower of London. 

The updated exhibit is shedding light on the colonial past, offering a more ‘honest’ account of its history.

Unveiling the Truth: The Crown Jewels Exhibit’s Transformation

The time-honoured Tower of London, a historic royal fortress, is unveiling an intriguing shift in the narrative of its Crown Jewels exhibit.

Delving into the depth of its colonial roots, the exhibit is now depicting a more candid account of its captivating past.

This transformation aims to shed light on the controversial history of the precious artifacts housed within its Jewel House.

Presenting the rich tapestry of their past, the revamped exhibition challenges the traditional narratives surrounding these regal treasures.

The Koh-i-noor Diamond: A Symbol of Conquest

Among the crown jewels, one gemstone stands out with its enthralling tale of acquisition – the Koh-i-noor diamond.

Once in the possession of Duleep Singh, the young Maharajah of Lahore, the diamond was taken under circumstances that remain debatable even today.

This gemstone, spectacular in its brilliance, has now been acknowledged as a potent symbol of conquest in the updated exhibit.

Special informational boards, along with an immersive audiovisual display, guide the visitors through the tumultuous journey of this diamond, as it changed hands from Mughal emperors to Afghan emirs, finally reaching Queen Victoria in 1850.

Contextualizing the Cullinan Diamond

Another remarkable gem in the Crown Jewels collection, the Cullinan diamond, has been reinterpreted in the newly revamped exhibit.

Originally from the Transvaal region in Africa, this gem’s colonial narrative has been largely overlooked in the past.

The Cullinan diamond, like the Koh-i-noor, is not just a piece of jewellery but a physical testament to history, bearing witness to an era of colonial power dynamics and global trade.

In the updated exhibit, the diamond’s rich and nuanced history is given the limelight it deserves.

The Cullinan diamond, like the Koh-i-noor, is not just a piece of jewellery but a physical testament to history, bearing witness to an era of colonial power dynamics and global trade.

The Inception of the Jewel House Transformation

The transformation of the Jewel House was not an overnight task but the culmination of a four-year project by the Historic Royal Palaces.

This endeavour was born out of a desire to address the feedback received from the local community, who felt that the original narratives surrounding the collection were not thoroughly elucidated.

The project involved extensive research and meticulous planning, resulting in an exhibit that not only honours the artifacts but also provides visitors with a broader understanding of their historical context.

Responding to the Coronation: Crown Jewels in a New Light

Interestingly, the updated exhibit’s debut coincides with the coronation of King Charles III.

This timing has put the Crown Jewels in a fresh spotlight, allowing the public to engage with the artifacts in a new way, beyond their ceremonial significance.

Notably, during the recent coronation, the Koh-i-noor diamond, traditionally worn by the Queen Consort, was replaced by a crown featuring the Cullinan diamond, signifying a conscious attempt to sidestep potential controversy.

This thoughtful maneuver demonstrates how historical understanding informs contemporary decisions, with the updated exhibit playing a pivotal role in reshaping the narrative.


The transformation of the Crown Jewels exhibit at the Tower of London signifies a move towards transparency in the historical narrative surrounding colonial acquisitions. 

It offers an insightful exploration into the complex histories of significant gems like the Koh-i-noor and Cullinan diamonds. 

This shift towards a more ‘honest’ account showcases the museum’s commitment to telling stories that are as full and accurate as possible. 

It not only sets a precedent for other exhibits to follow but also serves as a thought-provoking display that encourages visitors to contemplate on the intricate web of history these jewels represent.

Our writing staff is varied and passionate about arts, literature, film, travel, music, and entertainment.

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