Leander Starr Jameson was born in Edinburgh on the 9 February 1853 and was educated in London at the Godolphin School, Hammersmith and at University College, Gower Street, where he studied medicine. In 1878 he travelled to the diamond mines in Kimberley, South Africa where he met Cecil John Rhodes and they became life-long friends.
In the autumn of 1895, discontent amongst the 'Uitlander', mainly British, population of the Transvaal with Paul Kruger's Boer government was coming to a head, and the Reform Committee in Johannesburg was making plans to forcibly overthrow the government at the instigation of Rhodes. Jameson was to raise a force and move against Johannesburg once the Uitlander uprising had started.
Internal disputes amongst the Uitlander caused Rhodes to postpone the action, but Jameson decided to continue and invaded the Transvaal on 29 December 1895. The raid was a disaster and Jameson and his men were forced to surrender to the Boer commandant, P.A. Cronje, at Doornkop, 14 miles from Johannesburg. Jameson was sent to England where he was tried and sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment, although he was released after a few months because of apparent severe illness. Rhodes was forced to resign as Prime Minister of Cape Colony in 1896.
Jameson returned to South Africa and was elected to represent Kimberley in the Cape Colony Parliament (1900). When Rhodes died in 1902, Jameson took over leadership of the Progressive Party and became Prime Minister of Cape Colony (1904-1908). After helping to promote the Union of South Africa, he founded the Unionist Party (1910) and led the opposition to the governing South African Party in the Union Parliament until he was forced to retire to England in 1912 because of ill-health. A baronetcy was conferred on him in 1911. Jameson died in London on the 26 November 1917, and, when the war was over, his remains were moved and laid to rest by the side of Rhodes' grave in the Matopo Hills, near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.