The De Beers founder Cecil Rhodes pushed the German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II towards war with Britain, it has been claimed.
He flattered the emperor into believing Germany should no longer remain in Britain’s shadow, and that he had an historic role to play.
The Kaiser went to lose World War One, a conflict that cost an estimated 40 million lives.
The claims about De Beers, reported by the Guardian newspaper, will do little to enhance the reputation of a man already widely condemned as an imperialist who built his empire on slave labor, and whose statue in Oxford has been the subject of an intense campaign in recent years.
The revelations center on a treasured paperweight found among Wilhelm’s possessions in April , which was set with two small pieces of granite from Rhodes’ grave. It attests to a close, if volatile relationship between two extremely powerful men.
De Beers, former prime minister of British Cape Colony (now modern South Africa) was among the world’s richest men.
He met the Kaiser in 1899 after lamenting the German people’s lack of appreciation for his genius, and reportedly filled his head with ambitious ideas for conquest and territorial expansion.
Cornelis Van der Bas, conservator at the Huis Doorn museum, the Kaiser’s home in exile in the Netherlands, found the paperweight and is convinced that De Beers had a key role in bringing about the conditions that led to World War I.
The newly discovered paperweight is to go on display at Huis Doorn next month.