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24 September 2014
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21.08.02

FACTUAL & ARTS TV


BBC TWO reveals the nation's top 100 Greatest Britons of all time

Great Britons - the top 100 has been revealedThe BBC today announced the results of a major new poll to discover who the nation considers the greatest Britons of all time.

From Boudicca and Bono to Richard III and J K Rowling, the results provide a fascinating insight into who the public sees as their role models in the 21st century.


The top 10 will be revealed by Anne Robinson this Autumn in BBC TWO's major new series, Great Britons, and viewers will be able to vote for the person they consider to be the Greatest Briton of them all.

A series of one hour films will be shown on each of the shortlisted Great Britons, each fronted by a high profile presenter, including Jeremy Clarkson, Rosie Boycott and Andrew Marr, arguing passionately why they believe their Great Briton is not only great, but the greatest ever.

Viewers will be able to vote throughout the series and the results will be announced in a special live programme hosted by Anne Robinson.

Over 30,000 people responded to the poll, conducted last year.


The top 100, revealed today in alphabetical order, shows the British public has very exacting standards: scientists, soldiers and royals are the most likely to be considered "great".

The bulk of living Britons come from the world of music - 11 in total, 14 if broadened to include DJ John Peel and musical stars Michael Crawford and Julie Andrews.

From Cliff Richard to Robbie Williams, the results show the powerful emotional hold popular music has on our lives.

One single job most likely to secure you a place in the top 100 is that of member of the Royal Family.

No less than 14 royals, including Boudicca and Robert the Bruce, make the list.

However, the present Royal Family are not so well represented with only Queen Elizabeth II and the late Elizabeth, The Queen Mother making an appearance.

One fifth of the top 100 come from the world of science, engineering and invention, from William Caxton (the printing press) to Tim Berners Lee (the world wide web); from Edward Jenner (pioneer of vaccination) to Barnes Wallis (inventor of the bouncing bomb).

In contrast, there is a startling absence of visual artists. There is no place for John Constable, JMW Turner, Henry Moore or any other of the major artists Britain has produced.

Poetry is as much neglected in this poll as painting: Keats, Yeats, Burns, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron and Hughes have all been overlooked.

By comparison, the British public loves a soldier. War heroes are well represented with Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington, Horatio Nelson, Owain Glyndwr, Henry V, Lawrence of Arabia and Field Marshall Montgomery amongst those in the top 100.

Many also chose to mark the contribution of the thousands of ordinary men and women who have fallen in our defence by nominating The Unknown Soldier.

In a nation gripped by the cult of celebrity, surprisingly few modern day Britons have made it onto the list: only 22 of the top 100 are alive today.

There are no models, no film or soap stars and only two living sports heroes: footballer David Beckham and Olympic rower Steven Redgrave.


David Attenborough is the only TV presenter; Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Michael Crawford the only actors.

The British sense of humour may be famous around the world, but Eric Morecombe and Charlie Chaplin are the only comedians.

There is no place for Peter Sellers or Spike Milligan; none for Richard Dimbleby or Alan Bennett, for John Gielgud or Lawrence Olivier.

Jane Root, Controller of BBC TWO, says: "I think there are a few surprises in the Top 100 and it will be fascinating to see who has made it into the Top 10.


"I'm sure this series will arouse enthusiastic debate in offices and homes all around the country. Just from talking to people I've got a real sense of how passionately they feel about the subject and who they feel is worthy of the title of Great Briton.

"We hope that the series will continue to provoke debate and encourage people to place their vote for the Greatest Briton of them all."


The National Portrait Gallery will have a Great Britons gallery trail this Autumn and is publishing a companion book.

Notes to Editors

The poll results were announced today by Jane Root, Controller of BBC TWO at BBC TWO's Autumn launch.


The poll for nominations for Great Britons ran between 27 November to 31 December 2001.


The BBC launched a publicity campaign and ran a series of trails asking people to nominate their greatest Briton of all time by phone or through the BBC website. The results were collated and from this we have the top 100 released today.


A great Briton is defined as anyone who was born in the British Isles, including Ireland; or anyone who lived in the British Isles, including Ireland, and who has played a significant part in the life of the British Isles.

The complete list of the top 100 in alphabetical order


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