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Showdown in Nepal

11:43 AM, Jun 10, 2008 • By JAIME SNEIDER
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Although King Gyanendra has agreed to relinquish his throne, he is refusing to hand over his crown and scepter to the Maoist Assembly, which voted last month to end the Nepalese monarchy. Some are now speculating that Gyanendra hocked the missing heirlooms at a London auction house.

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.

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.

It seems doubtful the notably feathered crown would be sold a month before Gyanendra's deposition. In any case, what use does an exiled royal have for jewel-encrusted crown? Perhaps Gyanendra could display it in his chalet in Gstaad, but I don't think it would be wise for him to wear it as he gets his drink on at the Palace Hotel.