Maithri Educational & Charitable Trust

The following article has been contributed by Nandana Gopal. We thank Nandana for another great contribution. The opinions and expressions below are the author's own.

The Regent

Over the centuries and multiple millenia of India's existence, multiple tribes and countries have attempted conquests and colonization of India. As the global tapestry unfolded, foreigners have journeyed to these ancient lands in search of gold, spices, and riches. This include the conquests by the Persians, Greeks, Arabs, and Turks. The Sultanate of Delhi, spanning from 1206 to 1526, played a pivotal role in the spread of Islam across the continent. Then came the sultanate's decline, setting the stage for the Mughals, who reigned until 1761.

Finally, the most renowned of these empires were the British. They arrived in India in the 1600s under the banner of the East India Company (EIC). Over the next century, they sowed the seeds of transformation within the then Mughal empire, gradually staking claim to vast territories. In 1858, the Mughal dynasty fell, giving rise to the era of British rule known as the British Raj. However, the focus of this article lies not with the British, but rather with the French.

In 1698, a momentous discovery occurred in the Golconda mines situated in the eastern expanse of India. This diamond, weighing an astonishing 140.64 metric carats, was excavated by a slave who hid it for himself. Soon, word of the diamond spread, and the slave was killed. It soon landed in the hands of Thomas Pitt, a British merchant. Between 1703 and 1705, Joseph Cope, a skilled artisan in London, meticulously cut the diamond. More than a decade later, on June 6, 1717, Phillipe II, the Duc d'Orléans and Regent of the Kingdom of France (since Louis XV had not yet come of age and could not ascend the throne), acquired it for the French monarchy. Henceforth, the diamond was known as Le Régent or The Regent.

Worn by every French monarch, The Regent became an integral piece of the French crown jewels. It adorned crowns, hats, swords, and epaulets. Queen Marie Antoinette placed it in her hat. It exemplified the brilliance of Napolean I's sword. King Louis XVII, King Charles X, and Napolean III built it into their swords. Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napolean III, had it encased in her diadem. This square, brilliant, and colorless diamond was the largest of its time. Its historical journey, from the Golconda mines to the courts of Europe, echoed the global nature of trade and commerce during the 18th century.

When the French Monarchy's chapter closed, the Regent was no longer housed in the Palace of Versailles, encrusted with a royal relic. In 1887, the Third French Republic sold many palace jewels, but Le Régent successfully escaped their grasp due to its significance. It was sent to the Louvre for housing. It has remained there until this day with only a short trip to the Loire Valley for safekeeping from Hitler during World War II.

The Regent's history serves as a poignant reminder of India's enduring legacy as a treasure trove of precious gems and resources that have captivated the imagination of explorers and traders for millennia. Its radiance, built through centuries of craftsmanship, remains a testament to the artistry and ingenuity that thrived in the ancient lands of India. Its legacy continues to illuminate the profound connections between cultures and continents to this day. It knits together the narratives of India and the wider world in a tapestry of shared heritage.

Picture taken by Nandana Gopal, 28 September, 2023, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

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