Mr Dalrymple uncovered the true history of the gem, following the Koh-i-Noor through its fascinating, but also violent and bloody history. The diamond was seized from the Indian Mughal courts by Emperor Nadir Shah and taken to Persia. It fell into the hands of the Emir of Afghanistan but was eventually ceded to the Sikh Maharaja of Punjab. It has been on the British crown since the end of the second Anglo-Sikh war.
However, much of what is known of the gemstone’s history on its journey through different countries is merely based on gossip and rumours, as Mr Dalrymple demonstrates. The widespread belief that the gem was gifted to Queen Victoria by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1849, for example, cannot be true, as he was not even alive then. Mr Dalrymple uncovers many more mysteries in his talk. While the Koh-i-Noor forms part of the British Crown Jewels today, four other nations also lay claim to it, with Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran and even the Taliban competing for its ownership.
William Hamilton-Dalrymple was born in Scotland and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He has lived in India since 1989. He wrote his first bestselling book, entitled In Xanadu, detailing the journey from Jerusalem to Mongolia, when he was only 22. His first four publications were travel books on his journeys through India, Central Asia and the Middle East. In 1999, he began writing on history instead of travel, publishing several critically acclaimed works, such as his 2009 publication Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, which won the Asia House Literary Award.
He has written and presented several multi-part television series on India’s colonial past with Channel 4 and the BBC. His work has earned him a great number of prizes, including the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Mungo Park Medal for his outstanding contribution to travel literature, the Royal Society for Asian Affairs’ Skyes Award and the President’s Medal of the British Academy. He holds three honorary doctorates and the most recent of his 11 books, Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond, was released in 2017.
The evening comprises a complimentary drinks reception and a four-course banquet dinner, including Indian food options, with wine. There is a choice of codfish, beef tenderloin, and curries – including vegetarian – for the main course.
In view of the popularity of this dinner, priority is being given to RGS-HK Members and their guests. The Annual Dinner has sold out in each of the last 10 years, so early booking is strongly advised.
For this event, there is pre-booked individual seating available, or you may arrange a group at a table, or book a table of 10-12 people.
Tickets are priced at HK$980 each for RGS Members.
Regular non-member tickets are HK$1,380, including one year’s RGS membership worth HK$400. Discounted non-members tickets at HK$1,230 are available, including an annual RGS-HK membership when payment is made by recurring credit card.
Please note that the surplus from this Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong dinner, if any, is used to subsidise and make possible our educational and charitable activities. This includes our programme of more than 120 events throughout the year, for the benefit of all Members and their guests. In addition, the Society runs an extensive scholarship programme for students and a major Schools Outreach Programme. Your support for this is much appreciated.
The Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong thanks Cathay Pacific, Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Silversea for their generous Title Sponsorship of this event.