- 100 Greatest Britons
"100 Greatest Britons" was broadcast in 2002 by the
BBC. The programme was the result of a voteconducted to determine whom the United Kingdompublic considers the greatest British peoplehave been in history.
The poll resulted in some unlikely (if not controversial) candidates including
Guy Fawkes, who was executed for trying to blow up the Parliament of England; King Richard III, suspected of murdering his nephews; James Connolly, an Irish nationalist who was executed by the Crown in 1916; and a surprisingly high ranking for former " Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" star Michael Crawfordin 17th. In addition to the British natives, some notable non-British entrants were listed as well. These include two Irish nationals, (philanthropic musicians Bonoand Bob Geldof); former Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who was born (to British Indian Parsi parents) in Zanzibarwhen it was a British colony; and both Alfred the Greatand Boudicaare from an era where "Britishness" was a concept of the future.
The top 19 entries were exclusively of self-declared English origin (though
Sir Ernest Shackletonand Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, were both born into English families settled in Irelandwhen that country was still part of the UK.). The highest-placed Scottish entry was Alexander Flemingin 20th place, with the highest Welsh entry, Owain Glyndŵr, at number 23. None were from Northern Ireland. Over half (60) had lived in the twentieth century.
The resulting series, "Great Britons", included individual programmes on the top ten, with viewers having further opportunities to vote after each programme. It concluded with a debate. All of the top 10 were deceased by the year of broadcast. The highest-ranked living person was
Margaret Thatcher, who placed 16th.
The Greatest Britons List
Due to the nature of the poll used to select and rank the Britons, the results do not pretend to be an objective assessment. They are as follows: (People marked (*) also appeared on the
100 Worst Britonslist compiled by Channel 4.)
Sir Winston Churchill, (1874–1965), statesman and orator, Prime Minister during Second World Warand winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, (1806–1859), engineer, creator of Great Western Railway and other significant works
Diana, Princess of Wales(1961–1997), first wife of HRH Charles, Prince of Wales (1981–1996) and mother of Princes William and Harry of Wales
Charles Darwin(1809–1882), naturalist, originator of the theory of evolution through natural selectionand author of " On the Origin of Species"
William Shakespeare(1564–1616), English poetand playwright, thought of by many as the greatest of all writers in the English language
Sir Isaac Newton(1643–1727), physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, and alchemist, regarded by many as the greatest figure in the history of science
# Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603),
monarch, (reigned 1558–1603)
John Lennon(1940–1980), musicianwith The Beatles, philanthropist, peace activist, artist
# Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (1758–1805),
Oliver Cromwell(1599–1658), Lord Protector
# Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874–1922), polar
# Captain James Cook (1728–1779), explorer
Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell(1857–1941), founder of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides
Alfred the Great(849?–899), King of Wessex, (reigned 871–899)
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington(1769–1852), military commander, statesman and Prime Minister 1828–1830 and 1834
Margaret Thatcher(*3) (born 1925), Prime Minister (1979–1990)
Michael Crawford(born 1942), actor and singer
# Queen Victoria (1819–1901), monarch (reigned 1837–1901)
# Sir Paul McCartney (born 1942), musician with
The Beatles, philanthropist, activist
# Sir Alexander Fleming (1881–1955),
Alan Turing(1912–1954), pioneer of computing
Michael Faraday(1791–1867), scientist
Owain Glyndŵr(1359–1416), Prince of Wales
# Queen Elizabeth II (*10) (born 1926), reigning monarch (1952–present)
# Professor Stephen Hawking (born 1942), theoretical physicist
William Tyndale(1494–1536), English translator of the Bible
Emmeline Pankhurst(1858–1928), suffragette
William Wilberforce(1759–1833), humanitarian
David Bowie(born 1947), musician
Guy Fawkes(1570–1606), English revolutionary
# Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire (1917–1992),
aviatorand charity organiser
Eric Morecambe(1926–1984), comedian
David Beckham(*91) (born 1975), footballer
Thomas Paine(1737–1809), political philosopher
Boudica(died c.60), leader of Celtic resistance to the Roman Empire
# Sir Steve Redgrave (born 1962), Olympic
# Saint Thomas More (1478–1535), English
saint, lawyerand politician
William Blake(1757–1827), author/ poet, painter and printer
John Harrison(1693–1776), clockdesigner
# King Henry VIII of England (1491–1547), monarch (reigned 1509–1547)
Charles Dickens(1812–1870), author
# Sir Frank Whittle (1907–1996),
John Peel(1939–2004), broadcaster
John Logie Baird(1888–1946), televisionpioneer
Aneurin Bevan(1897–1960), politician
Boy George(born 1961), musician with Culture Club
# Sir Douglas Bader (1910–1982), aviator and charity campaigner
# Sir William Wallace (c.1270–1305), Guardian of Scotland
# Sir Francis Drake (c.1540–1596), English naval commander
John Wesley(1703–1791), founder of Methodism
King Arthur, legendary Celtic monarch
Florence Nightingale(1820–1910), nurseand charity campaigner
T. E. Lawrence(Lawrence of Arabia) (1888–1935), Arabistand soldier
Robert Falcon Scott(1868–1912), polar explorer
Enoch Powell(1912–1998), politician
# Sir Cliff Richard (*29) (born 1940), musician
Alexander Graham Bell(1847–1922), telephonepioneer, placed 9th in the Canadian version
Freddie Mercury(1946–1991), musician with Queen
# Dame Julie Andrews (born 1935), actress and
# Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934),
# Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900–2002),
George Harrison(1943–2001), musician with The Beatles
# Sir David Attenborough (born 1926), broadcaster
# James Connolly (1868–1916), the Scottish born leader of the Irish 1916 rising
George Stephenson(1781–1848), railwaypioneer
# Sir Charlie Chaplin (1889–1977), comic actor and film director
Tony Blair(*1) (born 1953), Prime Minister (1997–2007)
William Caxton(c.1415~1422–c.1492), English printer
Bobby Moore(1941–1993), footballer and Captain of England 1966 World Cup winning team
Jane Austen(1775–1817), author
William Booth(1829–1912), founder of Salvation Army
# King Henry V of England (1387–1422), monarch (reigned 1413–1422)
Aleister Crowley(1875–1947), occultist, writer, and social provocateur; founder of Thelema
Robert the Bruce(1274–1329), King of Scots
Bob Geldof(born 1951), Irish musician
The Unknown Warrior, soldier of the Great War
Robbie Williams(*17) (born 1974), musician and former member of Take That
Edward Jenner(1749–1823), pioneer of vaccination
# David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd George (1863–1945), Prime Minister (1916–1922)
Charles Babbage(1791–1871), mathematicianand pioneer of computing
Geoffrey Chaucer(c.1343–1400), English author
# King Richard III of England (1452–1485), monarch (reigned 1483–1485)
J.K. Rowling(born 1965), author
James Watt(1736–1819), developer of the steam engine
# Sir Richard Branson (*86) (born 1950),
Bono(born 1960), Irish musician - Singer for Rock Band U2, philanthropist
John Lydon(Johnny Rotten) (born 1956), musician
Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein(1887–1976), military commander
Donald Campbell(1921–1967), water speed world recordchallenger
# King Henry II of England (1133–1189), monarch (reigned 1154–1189)
James Clerk Maxwell(1831–1879), physicist
J.R.R. Tolkien(1892–1973), author and philologist
# Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618), English explorer
# King Edward I of England (1239–1307), monarch (reigned 1272–1307)
# Sir Barnes Wallis (1887–1979),
Richard Burton(1925–1984), actor 1
Tony Benn(born 1925), politician
David Livingstone(1813–1873), missionaryand explorer
# Sir Tim Berners-Lee (born 1955),
Internetpioneer and inventor of the World Wide Web
Marie Stopes(1880–1958), promoter of birth control
Several of these also appear in
Channel 4's list of 100 Worst Britons(a tongue in cheek response to this show), due to strongly polarised views on their works, lives or legacies - notably this includes Margaret Thatcherand the current monarch, Elizabeth II. Channel 4 refused to take votes for dead figures, with their broadcast considerably lighter in tone.
1There was some question as to whether the Richard Burton listed is the actor or the explorer. A [http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2002/08_august/21/100_britons.shtml BBC press release] makes it clear that the Burton so honoured is in fact the actor.
"Great Britons" series
An hour long documentary was filmed on each of the top ten nominees, each of them hosted by a celebrity advocate, who delivered a passionate argument as to why their choice should be voted the greatest Briton of all. The series concluded with a debate on the merits of each selected Briton, bringing all of the advocates together to make a final plea to voters.
Fiona Shawchampioned Shakespeare in the hour-long documentary reviewing his achievements, she was not able to attend the live studio debate, during which he was instead advocated by the writer and newspaper columnist A. A. Gill.
:"Other countries have produced similar shows, see also:
Greatest Britons spin-offs"
* Germany ran their version on
ZDFand called it " Unsere Besten" ("Our Best").
* The CBC ran "
The Greatest Canadian" in 2004.
KRO(part of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting) ran the " De Grootste Nederlander" ("The Greatest Dutchman").
The Discovery Channel(in conjunction with AOL) ran " The Greatest American" in May 2005. [http://tv.channel.aol.com/greatestamerican]
South African Broadcasting Corporationran the "Great South Africans".
Finland, YLEran " Suuret Suomalaiset" ("Great Finns"). [ [http://www.yle.fi/suuretsuomalaiset/ Suuret Suomalaiset ] ]
* In France "
Le Plus Grand Français" ("The Greatest Frenchman") ran on France 2.
* In Belgium.: "
De Grootste Belg" and " Le plus grand belge".
* A Czech version called "The Greatest Czech" ("
Největší Čech") aired in June 2005.
* In Brazil, SBT had a project to do a Spin-off of The Greatest Briton. It's would called O Grande Brasileiro - The Biggest Brazilian.
100 Welsh Heroeswas the result of an on-line poll carried out in 2003-4.
* A Bulgarian version, "The Great Bulgarians" ("Великите българи"), finished in February 2007.
* In Romania, the show called "
Mari Români" ("Great Romanians") started in May 2006; on 8 July, Televiziunea Română(TVR) presented the 100 Greatest Romanians, and on 21 October the Greatest Romanian of all the times.
* In Portugal, RTP chose dictator
António de Oliveira Salazaras the Greatest Portuguese.
* In Spain, Antena 3 chose the current head of state,
King Juan Carlos I, as the The Most Important Spaniard in History, on 22 May 2007. [http://www.antena3.com/elmasimportante/index.htm]
* Russia started their project called
The Name of Russia() in May 2008.
Argentinaran their version on Telefeand called it El Gen Argentino("The Argentine Gene"). Started on 27 August 2007. [ [http://www.telefe.com.ar :: T E L E F E :: ] ]
Ukraineran their version on Inter (TV channel)and called it Великі українці ("The Great Ukrainians"). To broadcast 2007-2008 season, 2007. [ [http://www.greatukrainians.com.ua/ Опчйой :: Чемйл¦ Хлтб§Ог¦ ] ]
New Zealand's Top 100 History Makersaired on Prime TV in 2005.
Greece, Skai TVis preparing the Greek version of the programme called Μεγάλοι Έλληνες ("Megaloi Ellines", "Great Greeks") scheduled to air on January 2009.
* A Chilean version, called "Great Chileans" (Grandes Chilenos), aired in 2008 and the chosen winner was
Salvador Allende(former socialist president).
100 Worst Britons
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2004/07_july/30/churchill.shtml Churchill memorial press release]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2002/10_october/19/great_britons.shtml BBC Great Britons press release]
* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/greatbritop100.asp BBC Great Britons book and links at National Portrait Gallery]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/2208671.stm 100 great British heroes] — BBC News article, dated Wednesday, 21 August 2002 (contains the top 100, sorted alphabetically)
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/2208532.stm BBC reveals 100 great British heroes] — BBC News article, dated Thursday, 22 August 2002
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/2341661.stm Ten greatest Britons chosen] — BBC News article, dated Sunday, 20 October 2002
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