One must go back to Dallas, Texas, in 1963 to find a comparable occasion of collective bereavement as that which has met the death of Nelson Mandela, at the age of 95. Even the assassination of President John F Kennedy registered less resonantly in the days before the global village – and, in any case, the trajectory of the American politician's life represented promise shattered rather than hope fulfilled.
Mandela has surely been venerated by more millions in his lifetime than any political figure in history. In working to free his country from racial division, he led an essentially peaceful revolution, culminating in his release from prison in 1990 and the post-apartheid election of 1994, which saw him elected as the first president of a democratic South Africa. The world responded to the qualities it perceived in the man as well as to the scale of his achievement.