Monday, October 08, 2007

Richest ever

Tim calls attention to a list of the 250 richest ever Britons in the Times. As ever with these lists, there are anomalies. Tim points to two: are Lakshmi Mittal and Roman Abramovitch (repsectively 20 and 59) really British? I suppose for that sake, you can query the Norman French chaps like Alan Rufus and William of Warenne (1 and 2) - they were more conquering outsiders than British after all.
But the thing that always makes me question these lists is that someone isn't there - someone who was one of the richest men anywhere in the world, ever. Cecil Rhodes, born in Bishop Stortford, may have made his money in Southern Africa, but he was as proud to be English as anyone ever has been - and much more so than most. He also left a very great portion of his money to the rather shadowy furtherance of English values (something sanitised into the Rhodes Scholars). His wealth was being measured in billions in the nineteenth century, so what that translates to in modern values is certainly more than Bernie Ecclestone's £2.5bn. And that's without counting the fact that the old crook had two countries that were effectively his personal property. If you're counting Abramovitch and Mittal as British, then you have to count Rhodes - so where is he?

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