Us Brits have done pretty well as far as well-known people are concerned. Be they famous or infamous, we have our fair share. So I guess the question is, who is the greatest of all the British historical figures? Don't think too hard, no need to strain your feeble brain. We did all the work for you. Good, right? Have a little browse below and see our top picks.
The second Tudor monarch was famous for his six marriages and for starting the English Reformation. That's when the Church of England was created. The Pope was understandably livid. Henry was also well-known for having a 52-inch waist in his 'prime', playing tennis and taking huge amounts of money from the dissolved monasteries.
Learn more at Hampton Court Palace
Daughter of King Henry VIII, the Virgin Queen of England and Ireland, and last of the Tudors. Elizabeth presided over a golden age of exploration and culture. However, when she was 21, her older sister Queen Mary I had her imprisoned in the Tower of London for a year. A sibling rivalry to...rival...the Gallaghers.
Learn more at the Tower of London
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Whatever Malvolio from Twelfth Night may have said, the playwright, author and poet is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the English language. His story archetypes can be found in nearly every book, play and screenplay to this day. Bravo, Shakespeare. We are not worthy.
Learn more at the Globe Theatre
Sir Christopher Wren
Few architects have had more influence on the London skyline than Sir Christopher. Responsible for 51 city churches and his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral, he had a key role in the rebuilding efforts following the Great Fire of London in 1666. Sir Christopher also founded the Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence in the world. They're responsible for publishing works like Isaac Newton’s 'Principia Mathematica', and Chadwick’s detection of the neutron that led to the unleashing of the atom. Fellows of the Society have included Newton himself, Darwin, Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee – many of them British historical figures in their own right.
Learn more at St. Paul’s Cathedral
A naturalist, geologist and biologist, Darwin is best known for his theory of evolution, published in “On the Origin of the Species”. It remains the best available scientific theory about our origins...as a species. It also continues to have a huge influence on politics and society since it was published. He also had a massive beard.
Learn more at Westminster Abbey
Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, the Artful Dodger...the list goes on and on. The famous author created fictional characters that are known around the world 200 years after his death. And his stories provide a vivid insight into Victorian life, and hold a lens up to society to this day.
Learn more at Charles Dickens Museum
Our longest-reigning British monarch before Elizabeth II. Queen Victoria presided over a period of intense innovation and development, which shaped the modern world to a remarkable degree. Her nine children and 42 grandchildren have married into royal families across the continent. A feat that's earned her the nickname “the grandmother of Europe”. We salute you, Queen Vic.
Learn more at Kensington Palace
Old Flo was known as The Lady with the Lamp from her time nursing soldiers during the Crimean War. During the conflict, she led efforts to formalise the training of nurses and to improve care for patients. She is arguably the founder of modern nursing and also a significant social reformer, due to her role in introducing nursing to poorhouse infirmaries.
Learn more at Florence Nightingale Museum
“The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow-men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.”
Prime Minister of the UK on-and-off between 1940 and 1955. Winston Churchill remains best-known for his part in the British war efforts during World Was 2. Did you know that he also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953? No, you didn't not. This absolute legend bagged the award for “mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values". Catchy. Rolls right off the tongue. Just like his words!
Learn more at the Churchill War Rooms
Professional footballer, captain of West Ham United and captain of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup in London. An icon to generations of English football fans who continue to hope that ‘football’s coming home’. Hopefully soon, Bobby. Hopefully soon.
Learn more at Wembley Stadium
Those are our picks for the greatest British historical figures. Who would you add to your list? Think about it. Hard. Maybe discuss it with friends over a pub lunch