Cecil John Rhodes died on March 26, 1902 in a small cottage by the sea near Cape Town. In his short life Rhodes had made a large fortune, been prime minister and had had a country (Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and Zambia) named after him. He was a man with an enormous drive and energy, ambitious not only for himself but also for his country, the British Empire. He wanted to bring large parts of Africa under the British flag, in which he succeeded.

English by birth, he first left his country for South Africa in 1870 because of health problems. He made his fortune through the diamond industry. Rhodes controlled the entire business thanks to his British South Africa Company, which was founded by him in 1889. At that time he already had become a rich man as head of De Beers Consolidated Mines and Goldfields of South Africa Ltd.

After some struggle, king Lobengula had granted him mineral rights in Matabeleland in 1888. With the encouragement of a royal charter he immediately put pressure on Transvaal. He became prime minister of Cape Colony in 1890. After six years he resigned through his connection with the notorious Jameson Raid into the Transvaal, which was intended to start a revolt against Boer leader Paul Kruger.

Without a doubt Rhodes' most valuable gift to Britain was his creation of Rhodesia in 1895. By this the territories south of the Zambesi river - that were already controlled by the British South Africa Company - were formally accepted into the British Empire under Cecil Rhodes' name. Today he is well remembered for the Rhodes scholarships which were founded at Oxford University under the terms of his will.