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100 Greatest Britons

"100 Greatest Britons" was broadcast in 2002 by the BBC. The programme was based on a television poll conducted to determine whom the United Kingdom public considered the greatest British people in history.[1][2] The series, Great Britons, included individual programmes featuring the individuals who featured in the top ten, with viewers having further opportunities to vote after each programme.[3] It concluded with a debate. All of the top 10 were dead by the year of broadcast.

The poll resulted in nominees including Guy Fawkes, who was executed for trying to blow up the Parliament of England; Oliver Cromwell who created a republican England; Richard III, suspected of murdering his nephews; James Connolly, an Irish nationalist and socialist who was executed by the Crown in 1916; and a surprisingly high ranking of 17th for actor and singer Michael Crawford (the second highest-ranked entertainer, after John Lennon). Diana, Princess of Wales was judged to be a greater historical British figure than William Shakespeare by BBC respondents to the survey.

One of the more controversial figures to be included on the list was occultist Aleister Crowley. His works have had a direct influence on the rise in popular occultism and some forms of neopaganism in the 20th century. He is considered an influence on Gerald Gardner, founder of Gardnerian Wicca. In addition to the Britons, some notable non-British entrants were listed, including two Irish nationals, the philanthropic musicians Bono and Bob Geldof. The top 19 entries were people of English origin (though Sir Ernest Shackleton and Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, were both born into Anglo-Irish families when what is now the Republic of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom). The highest-placed Scottish entry was Alexander Fleming in 20th place, with the highest Welsh entry, Owain Glyndŵr, at number 23.[4] Sixty had lived in the twentieth century. The highest-ranked living person was Margaret Thatcher, placed 16th.[5] Ringo Starr is the only member of The Beatles not on the list. Isambard Kingdom Brunel occupied the top spot in the polls for some time thanks largely to "students from Brunel University who have been campaigning vigorously for the engineer for weeks." However a late surge in the final week of voting put Churchill over the top.[6]

The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics featured the two greatest Britons, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Winston Churchill as main characters, played by Kenneth Branagh and Timothy Spall, each of them reading a monologue from William Shakespeare's The Tempest.[7][8] In addition, the ceremony also contained a personal appearance by Tim Berners-Lee,[9] who was placed 99th on the list. There were no black Britons on the list, prompting a separate three-month survey to find the 100 greatest black Britons, with double Olympic decathlon gold medalist Daley Thompson the highest ranked track athlete on both lists.[10][11]


  • Top 10 on the list 1
  • Full list 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Top 10 on the list

Because of the nature of the poll used to select and rank the Britons, the results do not claim to be an objective assessment. They are as follows:

Rank Name Time Frame Image Occupation Notability
1 Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965) Politician Prime Minister during World War II, historically ranked as one of the greatest British prime ministers.
2 Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859) Engineer Creator of the Great Western Railway, and designer of numerous significant ships, tunnels and bridges.
3 Diana, Princess of Wales (1961–1997) Member of the British Royal family and philanthropist. First wife of Charles, Prince of Wales (marriage 1981–1996), and mother of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry.
4 Charles Darwin (1809–1882) Naturalist Originator of the theory of evolution through natural selection and author of On the Origin of Species.
5 William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Poet and playwright Thought of by many as the greatest of all English writers.
6 Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) Physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher and biblical scholar Originator of universal gravitation and laws of classical mechanics and laws of motion. His Principia is one of the most influential works in the history of science.
7 Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) Queen regnant Popular monarch of England (reigned 1558–1603) who brought a period of relative internal stability. She is associated with the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
8 John Lennon (1940–1980) Composer, musician, philanthropist, peace activist, artist, and writer Co-writer with Paul McCartney in The Beatles, the most successful band and music act of all time, and solo musician.
9 Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (1758–1805) Naval commander Famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars.
10 Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) Military and political leader 1st Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. Commander of the New Model Army during the English Civil War against King Charles I.

Full list

  1. Sir Winston Churchill
  2. Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  3. Diana, Princess of Wales
  4. Charles Darwin
  5. William Shakespeare
  6. Sir Isaac Newton
  7. Elizabeth I
  8. John Lennon
  9. Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
  10. Oliver Cromwell
  11. Sir Ernest Shackleton
  12. Captain James Cook
  13. Robert Baden-Powell
  14. Alfred the Great
  15. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
  16. Margaret Thatcher
  17. Michael Crawford
  18. Queen Victoria
  19. Sir Paul McCartney
  20. Sir Alexander Fleming
  21. Alan Turing
  22. Michael Faraday
  23. Owain Glyndŵr
  24. Elizabeth II
  25. Stephen Hawking
  26. William Tyndale
  27. Emmeline Pankhurst
  28. William Wilberforce
  29. David Bowie
  30. Guy Fawkes
  31. Leonard Cheshire
  32. Eric Morecambe
  33. David Beckham
  34. Thomas Paine
  35. Boudica
  36. Sir Steve Redgrave
  37. Sir Thomas More
  38. William Blake
  39. John Harrison
  40. Henry VIII
  41. Charles Dickens
  42. Sir Frank Whittle
  43. John Peel
  44. John Logie Baird
  45. Aneurin Bevan
  46. Boy George
  47. Sir Douglas Bader
  48. Sir William Wallace
  49. Sir Francis Drake
  50. John Wesley
  51. King Arthur
  52. Florence Nightingale
  53. Thomas Edward Lawrence
  54. Robert Falcon Scott
  55. Enoch Powell
  56. Sir Cliff Richard
  57. Alexander Graham Bell
  58. Freddie Mercury
  59. Dame Julie Andrews
  60. Sir Edward Elgar
  61. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
  62. George Harrison
  63. Sir David Attenborough
  64. James Connolly
  65. George Stephenson
  66. Sir Charles Chaplin
  67. Tony Blair
  68. William Caxton
  69. Bobby Moore
  70. Jane Austen
  71. William Booth
  72. Henry V
  73. Aleister Crowley
  74. Robert the Bruce
  75. Bob Geldof
  76. The Unknown Warrior
  77. Robbie Williams
  78. Edward Jenner
  79. David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor
  80. Charles Babbage
  81. Geoffrey Chaucer
  82. Richard III
  83. J. K. Rowling
  84. James Watt
  85. Sir Richard Branson
  86. Bono
  87. John Lydon (Johnny Rotten)
  88. Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein ('Monty')
  89. Donald Campbell
  90. Henry II
  91. James Clerk Maxwell
  92. J. R. R. Tolkien
  93. Sir Walter Raleigh
  94. Edward I
  95. Sir Barnes Wallis
  96. Richard Burton
  97. Tony Benn
  98. David Livingstone
  99. Sir Tim Berners-Lee
  100. Marie Stopes

Although the BBC's original ranked list has been removed from their web server and what remains is only an alphabetical list of the Top 100,[12] several other sources[13][14][15] have preserved the original ranked list.

There was some question as to whether the Richard Burton listed at #96 is the actor or the explorer. A BBC press release makes it clear that they intended it to be the actor.

See also


  1. ^ 100 great British heroes—BBC News article, dated Wednesday, 21 August 2002 (contains the top 100, sorted alphabetically)
  2. ^ BBC reveals 100 great British heroes—BBC News article, dated Thursday, 22 August 2002
  3. ^ Ten greatest Britons chosen—BBC News article, dated Sunday, 20 October 2002
  4. ^ Rebel 'plot' to topple greatest Welshman The Independent. Retrieved 26 September 2011
  5. ^ Three lead race to be greatest Briton The Times. Retrieved 26 September 2011
  6. ^ "Churchill leads great Britons poll". Daily Mail. Retrieved 13 March 2013
  7. ^ "Brunel reads from Shakespeare's The Tempest". ITV News. Retrieved 24 August
  8. ^ "Timothy Spall plays Churchill at closing ceremony". BBC News. Retrieved 24 August
  9. ^ "Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee stars in Olympics opening ceremony" ZDNet. Retrieved 10 April 2013
  10. ^ "Nurse named greatest black Briton". BBC News. 10 February 2004. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Solambey F. "The 100 greatest Black Britons". Afrokanlife. Archived from the original on 2015-03-30. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  12. ^ BBC - Press Office - List of top 100 Britons, BBC Press Release, 8 August 2002
  13. ^ 100 Greatest Britons (BBC Poll, 2002) - Alchemipedia, posted 8 December 2009
  14. ^ "Great Britons 1-10". BBC via Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on 2004-02-04. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  15. ^ "Great Britons 11-100". BBC via Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on 2002-12-04. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 

External links

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