The Third Leader: Guest list

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The Independent Online

A good week for imperial reminders. Following the unveiling, complete with peace pipe and spirit dancing, at Southwark Cathedral of a memorial to an 18th-century chief of the Mohegan tribe, we report today on the commemoration with a blue plaque of another capital visitor, the great Zulu chief, Cetshwayo.

It's not so surprising, given such a past, that London should have entertained any number of exotic visitors over the centuries, but even so, a glance through the list of blue plaques is an instant rehearsal of international greatness and struggle, most of which this country has been responsible for, in one way or another. Franklin, Gandhi, Nehru, Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Bolivar, San Martin, Mazzini, Talleyrand, Marx, Marcus Garvey: on it goes.

There are some nice connections and juxtapositions, too. My favourite is Handel (Frederick) and Hendrix (Jimi) at adjacent premises in Brook Street, Mayfair; but another one is Kropotkin, commemorated at 6 Crescent Road, Bromley, a pleasingly undramatic address for a leading anarchist who, we must suppose, would not approve for any number of reasons.

More examples of our remarkable guest list are displayed on blue plaques around the country, although there is no mark of the time spent with his brother in Liverpool by Adolf Hitler (1912, allegedly).

Other tricks of history are better attested. Weyonomon, the Mohegan chief, died in London on a vain mission to protect his tribal lands from the colonists; now a casino on his tribe's reservation is raking in about $1bn (£520m) a year from the successors of those colonists: a splendidly literal case of what goes around, comes around.