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24 September 2014
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BBC TWO reveals the ten greatest Britons of all time

Queen Elizabeth I makes it but our current Queen doesn't. Winston Churchill is in but our present Prime Minister doesn't get our vote. John Lennon hits the right note but Paul McCartney doesn't make the top ten.

The BBC today announced the ten greatest Britons of all time, as voted for by the British public. They feature in BBC TWO's major new series, Great Britons which starts on Sunday 20 October at 9.00pm.

The roll of honour includes many hugely respected figures from Britain's past including William Shakespeare, Horatio Nelson and Charles Darwin.

The wide-ranging list includes engineers, scientists, royals, writers and military figures, although a few eyebrows may have been raised over the inclusion of the more contemporary figures, John Lennon and Diana, Princess of Wales.

The top ten Great Britons, in alphabetical order - together with their on-screen champions - is as follows:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel - Jeremy Clarkson

Winston Churchill
- Mo Mowlam

Oliver Cromwell - Richard Holmes

Charles Darwin
- Andrew Marr

Diana, Princess of Wales - Rosie Boycott

Queen Elizabeth I
- Michael Portillo

John Lennon - Alan Davies

Horatio Nelson -Lucy Moore

Isaac Newton - Tristram Hunt

William Shakespeare - Fiona Shaw

Over the next five weeks, ten high-profile presenters, including Mo Mowlam, Michael Portillo and Alan Davies each spend one hour passionately arguing the case for their chosen Great Briton in the hope of convincing viewers to vote for their choice.

But only one name can come out on top and there'll be no holds barred as the presenters use their powers of persuasion to the full.

The battle of the Britons commences on Tuesday 22 October at 9.00pm on BBC TWO when Jeremy Clarkson makes an impassioned case for Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859).

Viewers will be able to vote throughout the series and Peter Snow will be appearing with regular updates after each biographical film is broadcast.

The presenters then come together at the end of the series for one last chance to convince the voters in a live studio debate and the greatest Briton of all time as voted for by BBC viewers will be announced, live, by Anne Robinson.

Jane Root, Controller of BBC TWO, says: "I think the top ten is a really interesting mix of contenders and we've got some fantastic presenters all desperate for their Great Briton to win so we're in for a really exciting competition.

"I hope people all around the country will be moved by the passion in their argument and will join in the debate and get voting!"

Notes to Editors

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 top 100 was arrived at following a BBC poll last Autumn. 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.

Over 30,000 people responded and the results were collated. From this we have the top 100 that will be counted down in order from 100-11 in the Great Britons launch programme on Sunday 20 October, followed by the announcement of the top ten in alphabetical order.

How to vote for your Great Briton

Viewers can vote for who they believe to be the greatest Briton, from the top ten, from the end of the launch programme on 20 October.

They can vote by phoning 090 11 22 1066, BBCi on the internet at or via the BBCi interactive service on digital TV by pressing the red button during or immediately after each programme or by pressing the text button at any other time.

Viewers will also be able to rate the Great Britons in a number of categories including their compassion, bravery and legacy.

Peter Snow will be giving a brief update on how the voting is going at the end of each programme and viewers can check out the latest voting and rating results at any time on the website or through interactive television.

There is one vote per programme per computer, phoneline or set top box.

Great Britons on the web -

As well as being able to place your vote and check out the results so far, the website contains a lot of additional material including the lowdown on all the top ten, with related links and biographies; a message board giving viewers and voters the chance to defend their Great Briton; competitions and a special version of the classic playground pastime, Great Britons Trumps, where you can compare scientists, monarchs, pop stars and more!

You'll also be able to send an e-card of your Greatest Briton to a friend eg "Mine's Shakespeare . . . who's yours?"

A special project has also been set up with UK libraries enabling library users to vote from special computer terminals in their library.

Great Britons on digital television and digital cable

Users of these platforms will be able to vote using their remote controls from the comfort of their sofas.

They can vote for their favourite Briton and rate each candidate on five criteria of greatness.

And using a unique graphics with real time analysis of all the votes, viewers will be kept in touch with who's winning, who's losing and how the public rates each of the Great Britons.

Notes to Editors

Great Britons - Diana now in first place (30.10.02)

Great Britons: over 170,000 vote in the first 48 hours

BBC TWO reveals the nation's top 100 Greatest Britons of all time (21.08.02)

The complete list of the top 100



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