South Africa and the United Kingdom have a lot of shared history. A lot. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the world’s greatest modern history makers have both South African and British blood coursing through their veins.
While both nations would love to take all the glory for themselves, here are some magnificent ‘mash ups’ that make both SA and the UK look great!
11. Cape Town City Hall – Made in England
Opened in 1905, Cape Town City Hall was one of the last major Victorian buildings to be erected in Cape Town. It was built from honey-coloured oolitic limestone imported from Bath, England, and has 39 bells making it one of the largest carillons in South Africa.
10. Wilbur Smith – Famous Novelist
A famous British novelist, Wilbur Smith has sold over 120 million copies of his more than 35 books. He was educated at Michaelhouse in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and studied to become a chartered accountant at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
As a young man he worked for South Africa’s Inland Revenue Service while he tinkered away at his early novels, until he earned enough money to quit and pursue writing full time.
Most of his novels are historical fiction with a focus on Southern Africa. Wilbur Smith has homes in London, Cape Town, Switzerland, and Malta.
9. Zola Budd – Distance Runner and Olympian
Born in Bloemfontein in 1966, Zola Budd is one of the world’s most well-known middle- and long-distance runners. While she competed at the 1984 Olympic Games for Great Britain and the 1992 Olympic Games for South Africa, both times in the 3000 metres, she was famous for training and racing barefoot.
A British tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mail, persuaded Budd’s father to encourage her to apply for British citizenship – on the grounds that her grandfather was British – to circumvent the international sporting boycott of South Africa during apartheid so that she could compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. With strong support from the Daily Mail, British citizenship was granted and she moved to Guildford.
She moved to South Carolina in 2008 with her family and still competes in marathons and ultramarathons.
Zola Budd still holds the British record: her mile best of 4:17.57 set in 1985.
8. Mark Shuttleworth – Internet Entrepreneur and Space Tourist
Born in Welkom in 1973, Mark Shuttleworth is a South African and British entrepreneur who founded Canonical Ltd., the company behind the development of the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system. In 2002, he became the first South African to travel to space as a space tourist. Mark was the Head Boy of Western Province Preparatory School in 1986 as well as at Bishops Diocesan College in 1991.
Shuttleworth obtained a Bachelor of Business Science degree in Finance and Information Systems at the University of Cape Town, where he lived in Smuts Hall. During his student years he became involved in the installation of the first residential Internet connections at the university.
He currently lives on the Isle of Man and holds dual citizenship from South Africa and the United Kingdom.
7. Christian Bale – Actor
While Christian Bale is undoubtedly our favourite Batman, he is also an award-winning actor known for transforming his body drastically for his roles.
The winner of an Academy Award and two Golden Globes, Christian Bale was also featured in the Time 100 list of 2011.
Born in Wales, his mother is English, while his father was born in South Africa to English parents. Bale had his first starring role at age 13 in Steven Spielberg’s war film Empire of the Sun (1987). After a decade of leading and supporting roles, including in Little Women (1994), he gained wider recognition for portraying the serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000). In 2004, he lost 63 pounds for his role in the psychological thriller The Machinist (2004).
Within six months, he gained 100 pounds to star as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s superhero film Batman Begins (2005). He later reprised his role in the sequels The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
6. Daniel Radcliffe – Actor
This Harry Potter film icon is the product of an Irish father and a South African-born mum.
Daniel Radcliffe became one of the highest paid actors in the world during the filming of the Harry Potter series of movies, earning worldwide fame, popularity, and critical acclaim for his role, also receiving awards for various film, television and theatre performances.
Earlier this year Radcliffe finished filming a new thriller where he plays a white anti-apartheid activist who escaped from one of South Africa’s toughest jails. Based on a true story, the breakout tale Escape From Pretoria is drawn from Tim Jenkin’s account of his dramatic escape from the notorious Pretoria Maximum Security Prison with his friend Stephen Lee in 1979.
As it turns out, the real Tim Jenkin escaped to London.
5. Luke Dale-Roberts – Chef and Founder of The Test Kitchen
Cape Town is Africa’s food Mecca, which is why the Cape was the perfect setting for the restaurant ranked 22nd best in the world.
The Test Kitchen was founded by British-born Luke Dale-Roberts, who spent many years working in the best restaurants in London, Europe and Asia before making his way to South Africa in 2006 to join La Colombe as Executive Chef.
Dale-Roberts then opened The Test Kitchen at Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill – a restaurant that, since 2012, has cracked the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list five times. Jolly good show!
4. Charlene, Princess of Monaco and Olympic Swimmer
Charlene, Princess of Monaco, is a Zimbabwean-South African former Olympic swimmer and wife of Prince Albert II.
While Charlene was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the family relocated to South Africa in 1989. Charlene represented South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, with her team finishing fifth in the 4 × 100 metre medley relay, but retired from competitive swimming in 2007 after a persistent shoulder injury.
Charlene’s British ancestry comes from her paternal grandmother: while much of her ancestry is English, she was given a certificate in 2014 verifying her Irish ancestry.
Princess Charlene has spent many years doing significant charity work. She still regularly visits South Africa and works alongside fellow South African World Champion and Olympic swimmer, Ryk Neethling, who was recently appointed CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa.
3. J.R.R. Tolkien – Author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
Born and raised in Bloemfontein until the age of three, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892 – 1973) was an English writer, poet and academic, best known for his now classic books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Millions of people became acquainted with his work when film director, Peter Jackson, turned his work into a series of truly epic films starring decorated actors including Sir Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Viggo Mortensen, to name but a few.
An Oxford professor for many years, he was at one time a close friend of C. S. Lewis. They both were members of an informal literary discussion group called the Inklings. Tolkien was also appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972.
In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. He was ranked the fifth top-earning “dead celebrity” in 2009 by Forbes.
2. The Cullinan Diamonds
Once a British colony under the rule of Queen Elizabeth’s glittering sceptre, it’s no surprise that South Africa’s biggest diamond is now the crowning glory (literally) of the British monarchy’s crown jewels.
Weighing 3,106 carats, this gigantic diamond was discovered in 1905 by Pretoria’s Premier Mine inspector, Thomas Wells, who at first thought he was being pranked by miners with a piece of glass.
The diamond was named The Cullinan after the owner of the mine and purchased by the Transvaal government as a gift for King Edward VII – the eldest son of Queen Victoria.
The task of cutting the diamond was given to Asscher’s of Amsterdam, who cut the Cullinan into nine stones, numbered Cullinan I – Cullinan IX, with 96 smaller, round, brilliant cut diamonds.
These diamonds have become some of the British monarchy’s most iconic gifts: today all nine of the Cullinans adorn the crown jewels that are worn by Queen Elizabeth and the Royal family.
Did you know, Queen Elizabeth II is the only British royal who does not travel with a passport? This is because all British passports are issued in her name.
“As British passports are issued in the name of Her Majesty, it is unnecessary for The Queen to possess one,” reads the royal family’s website, adding that all other members of the royal family, including The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales, do have passports.
1. Elon Musk – Tech Entrepreneur and Founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors
When you read this list of achievements, you’ll understand why we had to put South African visionary, Elon Musk, at number one.
Born and raised in Pretoria, Elon Musk is a technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer and currently enjoys South African, Canadian, and U.S. citizenship.
The founder, CEO, and chief engineer and designer of SpaceX, he also co-founded Tesla, Inc., Neuralink, OpenAI, PayPal and he founded The Boring Company. In December 2016, he was ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People and was ranked (co-)first on the Forbes list of Most Innovative Leaders in 2019. He has a net worth of $22.8 billion and is listed by Forbes as the 40th-richest person in the world.
In addition to his other incredible achievements, Musk is working on a high-speed transportation system called the Hyperloop and is working on a vertical take-off and landing supersonic jet electric aircraft with electric fan propulsion, known as the Musk electric jet.
Musk announced that the goals of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity are centred around his vision to change the world and humanity. His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption and reducing the risk of human extinction by establishing a human colony on Mars.
His British heritage comes from his grandmother on his father’s side, which means he could also directly apply for a British passport under a unique provision in his case, but we think four citizenships may just be one too many…