This is one of my all-time favourite biographical TV dramas, charting the life of Cecil Rhodes, a man who had almost faded into history until this drama brought him to the public attention.
Rhodes was a major figure in the British Empire in Africa - he was the man who stole a country and then much of the continent! That, along with his diamond mining monopoly ending up making him the richest and most powerful man on earth who's business exploits in Africa are the stuff of legends and well covered by this drama series.
Rhodes was a very complex character, as this drama shows. It's not very flattering as a drama, and does portray him as somewhat of a villain and ruthless racist tyrant, but he also had good sides to him. He strongly believed in giving black Africans education, equality and the right to vote, when this was deeply unpopular with the Dutch Africans and the British Empire.
Despite his immense wealth, he also wore the same clothes and led rather a modest existence. He lived in rather squalid and humble conditions and had many strange habits, many of which are not covered in the drama but if you want to find out more, you can read his unofficial autobiography by his last secretary freely online. It's implied he was homosexual, because he always was in the company of young men and didn't marry or have relations with women. History doesn't have any clear evidence he was homosexual and his closest aides have always denied it.
One thing not covered in the drama, is that Rhodes influence and power continued long after his death, not just in African politics, but also in the UK and beyond. He left an incredible will, with his entire wealth and estate left to the advancement of the British Empire and its expansion. In his will, he predicted that the British Empire would cover all of the earth eventually, with all the European Powers joining it, and even the US re-joining creating a power so great that no future wars would ever be possible! He advocated the creation of a secret society and a Rhodes Scholarship for educating the brightest and best people to become future leaders in the Empire who's aim it was to bring civilisation, peace, stability and prosperity to all the world. One student who received a Rhodes Scholarship (which is still going today) is none other than President Clinton.
Back to the drama.. my favourite scene is where he faces off Lord Chamberlain and the committee inquiry which had him answer to serious crimes of starting a war on a foreign power, without consulting the British government and going against their express orders. He just basically said, he had bought the land, so had the right to do anything there, and had a country to run so didn't have time to stay, would answer their questions another time and walked out! When with the Royal Charter being revoked, he simply said he would break off the African colonies from the Empire and make them independent AND defend them fully with all his resources and private army (which did eventually happen, but almost half a century later, after his death!).
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