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Recently, Rishi Sunak, a person of Indian origin, became British PM. Indians have begun making online posts about how the return of the Koh-i-Noor diamond will be possible now.

Does the British PM actually have the power to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond to India?

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    If he were Labour (38% support for republicanism), he might want to, but don't bet on a Conservative PM (4% support for republicanism) trying to return any of the Crown Jewels to India just because his grandparents were from Punjab. Also, it would take an Act of Parliament in any case, so he would need most of the other MPs to sign on.
    – Obie 2.0
    Oct 25, 2022 at 8:25
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    @Obie2.0 I think that's an answer - he does not have the power to return the diamond unilaterally, and would have to go through Parliament.
    – F1Krazy
    Oct 25, 2022 at 8:37
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    Any act of parliament would have to be approved by the King. I think the answer is that there is no formal legal procedure set out in advance for the return of the diamond (you could compare goods in museums like the Elgin Marbles or various colonial-era human remains but the comparison isn't exact because the Koh-i-Noor doesn't belong to a museum), but if it were to happen it would almost certainly involve discussions between the government and King. The Prime Minister doesn't have the power to expropriate property without good reason, and anyone saying otherwise is mistaken.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 25, 2022 at 8:56
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    A comment on the gemological nature - what an awful cut that thing has. It's almost entirely window. I guess the cutters of the time didn't have a strong understanding of gem optics.
    – Brady Gilg
    Oct 25, 2022 at 22:52
  • Not only has he not the unilateral power to do so, had he done it so blatantly in favor of India, he would be voted out with a round of no-confidence votes faster than they got rid of Liz Truss. Oct 26, 2022 at 11:58

3 Answers 3

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Not unilaterally, no. The Koh-i-Noor diamond is part of the Crown Jewels, owned by the sovereign in the right of the Crown. The Prime Minister has no executive power to seize Crown property, and would have to pass primary legislation through both Houses of Parliament, as well as obtain Royal Assent to do so.

Furthermore, as the legislation would affect the interests of the Crown, King's Consent would need to be sought before such a bill could pass through Parliament.

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    Was the Kings consent ever denied in practice? Oct 25, 2022 at 15:49
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    @JonathanReez in practice, it's always granted or withheld in accordance with the Government's wishes. In some cases, however, the monarch has secured changes to bills - Wikipedia has some examples.
    – CDJB
    Oct 25, 2022 at 15:54
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    @JonathanReez very rarely, as refusing has historically often made problems worse.
    – Ti Strga
    Oct 25, 2022 at 18:33
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    @TiStriga the English civil war had nothing to do with King's Consent, which didn't exist in the 17th century. You're thinking of Royal assent, which is different.
    – phoog
    Oct 26, 2022 at 8:44
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    The Guardian has lots more to say about Queen's, now King's, consent. theguardian.com/uk-news/series/queens-consent
    – dipetkov
    Oct 26, 2022 at 18:44
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Although the Prime Minister lacks the executive power to order this to be done, he could (if he was willing to risk antagonising monarchists) simply ask the king to return the diamond to India. A king who wishes to remain a king would probably not want to upset the government by refusing.

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    It's not in the king's personal possession, so it is not within his power to return it.
    – phoog
    Oct 26, 2022 at 9:04
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I think you will find that the diamond was a gift to Queen Victoria as opposed to it being stolen or pillaged (as was usual in past centuries). As such, I believe it's ownership has passed down through the hands of British monarchs and now - I suppose - it passes into the personal possession of King Charles. He might decide (as I would) to return it - as a gift - to its rightful owner, if such a rightful owner could be identified. If that were not the case, then he could (as I would) return it to the Indian Government as a gift to their people to be on display in an appropriate museum in perpetuity.

IF Charles - representing the Crown - wanted/wished to return the Koh-I-Noor to India, then nothing and nobody could stop him because he has absolute power. However, whilst his hereditary position as monarch historically precludes him from exercising this absolute power, it doesn't stop him from exercising his VERY persuasive powers which he has in abundance. If he wanted it to happen - then it would, but you'll see flying pigs first.

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    This does not seem to actually address the question. The question of whether Britain should return the diamond is not relevant to whether the PM could. Oct 26, 2022 at 8:59
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    Victoria apparently transferred it to the crown rather than bequeathing it to any heir, so it has not been in anyone's personal possession since her death.
    – phoog
    Oct 26, 2022 at 9:03
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    Iran's claim to the diamond is that it was stolen from them, so the gift to Victoria was not valid. Oct 26, 2022 at 15:13
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    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica - Having read through its history, pretty much every transfer of ownership involved some measure of coercion. One would imagine this started with the original miner who dug the thing up. It was "stolen" from everyone. So claims of theft in this case are neither persuasive nor even particularly noteworthy.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 26, 2022 at 17:36
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    That "gift" word is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. 1849 Last Treaty of Lahore, Article III: : "The gem called the Koh-i-Noor [...] shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England." Oct 27, 2022 at 11:07

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