British Historical Figures: Which Is Your Favourite?

By Dom Bewley

Ah, the Brits have a pretty cool track record when it comes to churning out folks who've made a name for themselves. Whether they're in the history books for good reasons or bad, we've got a fascinating array of characters.

From famous historical figures to important people in history, the United Kingdom has certainly produced its fair share of icons.

So, who takes the crown as the ultimate British legend? Don't worry, you don't have to rack that brain of yours.

We've already rolled up our sleeves and compiled a hot list just for you. Nice, huh?

A Legacy of Legends

Britain’s rich history has given us some truly great historical figures and famous British people who've left an indelible mark on the world.

Ready for some eye candy? Go ahead and scroll down to discover our carefully curated top picks. It's like the annual "Who's Who" of British awesomeness!

Henry VIII

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

Elizabeth I

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. This famous person from England had her share of trials too.

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

Shakespeare

One of the most famous people from the UK, he needs no introduction. “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. He stands as one of Britain’s most famous British historical figures. 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

Charles Darwin

A naturalist, geologist and biologist, Darwin is best known for his theory of evolution, published in “On the Origin of the Species”. He remains one of the most famous people in history for his groundbreaking work. 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

Charles Dickens

As one of the great historical figures in literature- 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

Queen Victoria

Our longest-reigning British monarch before Elizabeth II. One of the famous British people who influenced the world, 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

Florence Nightingale

Old Flo was known as The Lady with the Lamp from her time nursing soldiers during the Crimean War. She’s among the famous people from England who revolutionised healthcare. 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

Winston Churchill

“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. As one of the most famous British people, Winston Churchill remains best-known for his part in the British war efforts during World War 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

Bobby Moore

This British famous person is a 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?

Who's Missing?

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?

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London Neighbourhoods: Things to do in South Kensington

Here's some things to do in South Kensington, a London neighbourhood filled with cultural delights. South Kensington is renowned for being one of the poshest areas of London, with stunning architectural sights like the Natural History Museum adding a distinct cultural flavour to the neighbourhood. Referred to fondly as South Ken by locals, it's filled with fantastic restaurants, internationally renowned museums and greenery with two gigantic parks nearby. There's loads to see and do in this rich corner of London - if you're taking the Hop on Hop off London Bus tour, then it's worth stepping off at Kensington Gardens for these great things to do in South Kensington. Image via The Roof Gardens facebook Where to Eat The Roof Gardens Located a little further afield, The Roof Gardens and Babylon in Kensington is one of London's best kept secrets. These lush rooftop gardens are split into three separate areas (English Woodland, Spanish and Tudor) and are free to roam around in, perfect for those looking for respite from the busy London streets. After you've finished soaking in the greenery, head to their restaurant and bar Babylon for a bite to eat with a view over the London skyline. Daquise For a taste of Eastern European cooking, head to Daquise for hearty Polish meals that bring to mind all the comforts of home. As one of the oldest Polish restaurants in the capital, it has a chequered history serving diners from all walks of life including Soviet spy Christine Keeler and the ousted Polish president Edward Raczynski. What to Do Royal Albert Hall Attracting big acts from all over the world, a night at Royal Albert Hall is an unforgettable one regardless of who you're watching. From Adele to Cirque de Soleil, this beautifully designed theatre is a versatile one and has a diverse programme worth keeping an eye on. For a spine tingling experience that will redefine the way you watch movies, try their Films with Live Orchestra series where movies like Harry Potter, Fantasia and Jurassic Park have had their award winning soundtracks brought to life. Science Museum Be filled with childlike wonder again at the British Science Museum, where you'll be able to discover everything from the inner workings of clockmaking to Einstein's theory of relativity. With gigantic displays, carefully considered educational exhibits and interactive experiments for budding scientists to play with, it's worth making some time for the museum's IMAX theatre. Don't go in expecting Hollywood's biggest blockbusters to be on the programme list, this cinema only shows gorgeous documentaries that will take you from the depths of the ocean to the fringes of the universe. V&A While the Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery may steal the show, the V&A is a fantastic gallery for art lovers obsessed with design. Spanning fashion, architecture, textiles and more traditional art forms like painting and ceramics, the V&A collects some of the most inspirational pieces in the world with over 2.3 million objects in their permanent collection. Keep an eye out for their temporary exhibitions as they're worth a visit - the 2017 programme features Pink Floyd- and Balenciaga-centric collections. Natural History Museum Easily recognisable by its grand facade, the Natural History Museum is one of the most stunning structures in South Kensington and also one of its best cultural sites. With numerous themed exhibits covering zoology, paleontology, botany, entomology and more, it's easy to spend hours exploring its millions of species and exhibits. The best thing? It's all free.
Megan Hills
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London Neighbourhoods: Our Guide to Shoreditch

See the highlights of one of London's trendiest neighbourhoods with our guide to Shoreditch Shoreditch is the beating cultural heart of East London and never fails to capture the hearts of locals and travellers alike. This vibrant neighbourhood overflows with creativity, colour and some of the most interesting people you'll see in London. With so much to see and do, here's a quick guide to Shoreditch for travellers. Image via Queen of Hoxton facebook Queen of Hoxton What's a London neighbourhood without a local watering hole? The Queen of Hoxton is one of Shoreditch's stalwarts, spanning over several floors and a beautiful rooftop that fills up quickly on a crisp summer's day. With ping pong tables, crazy rooftop installations (which have at one point included a gigantic tipi, rainbow tower and a graffitied car for photo ops) as well as alcoholic slushies, it buzzes with creative energy and the music is always on point. You'll even here the occasional Cockney rhyming slang, which will be an experience unto itself. Breaking news! #beigelbake #saltybeef now with #pickles!!! 😱😋👌 #bricklane #innovation A post shared by Solaris100 (@solaris100) on Apr 4, 2017 at 5:42pm PDT Beigel Bake Don't mistake this Jewish bakery for the yellow one next door - this famous 24 hour bakery can be recognised by its white luminous sign and blue lettering. Best known for their hearty salt beef bagels, their recipe consists of a thick slice of succulent beef, a crunchy pickle and a generous helping of mustard slathered across a bagel. Always a favourite with the late night party crowd, they also serve sweet treats like apple strudels and cheesecake. To be continued #graffiti #wallpainting #art #bricklane #london 🎩🌂 A post shared by @vvdvvdvoo on Apr 7, 2017 at 2:52am PDT Graffiti Shoreditch is littered with graffiti by some of the best street artists in the world and you'll regularly see tour groups stopping and staring at some of its more notable works. With the likes of Stik, Otto Schade and others transforming the neighbourhood's walls, one of the most iconic pieces of the neighbourhood is Belgian artist ROA's gigantic crane which symbolises the strong Bengali community in the area. Find out more about Shoreditch's street art here. Sexy cinema Sundays 😍 #sohohouse #portobello #electriccinema A post shared by samphireandsalsify (@samphireandsalsify) on Apr 2, 2017 at 1:51am PDT Electric Cinema Make your movie night a spectacular one at Electric Cinema, an indie theatre where moviegoers can relax in couches, blankets and a cheeky glass of wine while watching blockbusters or little known arthouse films. If you're looking to save a couple of quid, pick the seats around the edges that have a slightly angled view as they're available for a reduced price. Small but mighty! 🍔💪🏽@bleeckerburger A post shared by The Restaurant Society (@rest.society) on Apr 6, 2017 at 11:19am PDT Indulge in Shoreditch's fantastic street food selections Shoreditch teems with talented street chefs and street food markets, which makes choosing a midday snack something of a challenge. Try one of Bleecker Street's incredible cheeseburgers which includes a layer of black pudding for a bit of a twist at Old Spitalfields Market, Japanese hot dogs at Pump Street Market or grab a pint of cider at BOXPARK while relaxing on its picnic benches on a sunny day. See our full guide to London street food markets here. Image via Rokit Vintage facebook Dress like a Londoner at Shoreditch's many vintage and boutique stores Shoreditch is well-known for its fashion forward residents and its eclectic clothing stores are always a sartorial adventure. Whether you're combing through the racks for a bargain find at Rok It Vintage, Blitz or Absolute Vintage or discovering the pop up boutiques at BOXPARK, you're sure to find a unique piece that will be the envy of all your friends.
Megan Hills

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