Nepal king’s ‘crown’ auctioned in Bond Street?June 7th, 2008 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 7 (IANS) More than a month before Nepal’s new lawmakers formally abolished the country’s 239-year-old monarchy, a priceless crown went under the hammer at an auction in London’s Bond Street. Now, with deposed king Gyanendra told to vacate the royal palace by June 12 and a government team beginning to take an inventory of the heirlooms in the palace, doubts are being raised, especially with the fabled crown reportedly missing.
“Where is the Shri Pench?” Nepali tabloid Naya Patrika asked Saturday.
The ‘Shri Pench’ is the once revered crown worn by Nepal’s Shah dynasty of kings, who were called ‘Shri Panch’, a reference to their sway over five kingdoms. The crown is easily identifiable because of the long, bird of paradise plume descending from the jewel-studded ornament at the apex of the turban-like crown.
“We haven’t yet come across any details of the crown,” Govind Prasad Kusum, a member of the inventory-taking team, told the daily.
“We checked all places but could not find any information about the crown.”
It was last worn by Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah, the last king of the dynasty, on June 4, 2001 when he succeeded his slain brother Birendra.
Another daily, the Kathmandu Post, said that along with the crown, the royal sceptre is missing as well.
On April 10, Bonhams, one of the world’s oldest auctioneers, sold several items from the collection of a private collector, that also included the personal dagger of India’s Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who commissioned the fabled Taj Mahal that is one of the seven wonders of the world.
The auctioned items belonged to the late Jacques Desenfans, a French millionaire who for 50 years passionately amassed rare objets d’art related to Islamic, Indian and Southeast Asian cultures, funding his acquisition drive with the money made by his family from its textile mills in Lyon.
Along with Shah Jahan’s dagger, Persian carpets and French clocks, the auctioneers also sold a 19th century gem-studded crown made for Nepal’s royal family.
Sold for a staggering 90,000 pounds, the crown, decorated with pearls, precious stone pendants and gems, also has a bird of paradise plume issuing from the apex.
Could this be the missing crown?
Or, if the crown is kept under lock and key in Mahendra Manzil, the apartment in the palace where the former queen mother Ratna stays, as the Naya Patrika daily suggested, then whose crown went under the hammer in New Bond street?
How and when did the French collector acquire it? Who was the buyer?
It remains to be seen if these questions will ever be answered.
Though Nepal is now one of the poorest countries in Asia, in the past, its ruling families boasted of a fabulous treasury of jewels.
Much of it went underground after the omnipotent Rana prime ministers lost their hereditary post in 1950 following a pro-democracy uprising.
Tags: bird of paradise, bond street, bonhams, emperor shah jahan, five kingdoms, french clocks, government team, kathmandu post, king gyanendra, mughal emperor, naya, patrika, persian carpets, private collector, royal sceptre, seven wonders, southeast asian cultures, sudeshna sarkar, textile mills, wonders of the world