The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Companions of all time. This list of famous British Companions is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of British Companions.
With an HPI of 86.53, Anne Boleyn is the most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 76 different languages on wikipedia.
Anne Boleyn (; c. 1501 – 19 May 1536) was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII. Their marriage, and her execution for treason and other charges by beheading, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that marked the start of the English Reformation. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France. Anne returned to England in early 1522, to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond; the marriage plans were broken off, and instead she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon. Early in 1523 Anne was secretly betrothed to Henry Percy, son of Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland, but the betrothal was broken off when the Earl refused to support their engagement. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey refused the match in January 1524 and Anne was sent back home to Hever Castle. In February or March 1526, Henry VIII began his pursuit of Anne. She resisted his attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress, which her sister Mary had been. Henry soon focused his desires on annulling his marriage to Catherine so he would be free to marry Anne. Wolsey failed to obtain an annulment of Henry's marriage from Pope Clement VII and in 1529–30 Anne helped bring about his downfall and his death. When it became clear that Clement would not annul the marriage, Henry and his advisers, such as Thomas Cromwell, began the breaking of the Catholic Church's power in England and closing the monasteries and the nunneries. In 1532, Henry made Anne the Marquess of Pembroke. Henry and Anne formally married on 25 January 1533, after a secret wedding on 14 November 1532. On 23 May 1533, newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine's marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne's marriage valid. Shortly afterwards, Clement excommunicated Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place, and the King took control of the Church of England. Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. On 7 September, she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry was disappointed to have a daughter rather than a son but hoped a son would follow and professed to love Elizabeth. Anne subsequently had three miscarriages and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour. In order to marry Seymour, Henry had to find reasons to end the marriage to Anne. Henry VIII had Anne investigated for high treason in April 1536. On 2 May, she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, where she was tried before a jury of peers, including Henry Percy, her former betrothed, and her uncle Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk; she was convicted on 15 May and beheaded four days later. Modern historians view the charges against her, which included adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king, as unconvincing.After her daughter, Elizabeth, was crowned as queen in 1558, Anne became venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the written works of John Foxe. Over the centuries, she has inspired, or been mentioned, in many artistic and cultural works and thereby retained her hold on the popular imagination. She has been called "the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had", as she provided the occasion for Henry VIII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and declare the English church's independence from the Vatican.
With an HPI of 81.09, Mary Boleyn is the 2nd most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
Mary Boleyn, also known as Lady Mary (c. 1499 – 19 July 1543), was the sister of English queen consort Anne Boleyn, whose family enjoyed considerable influence during the reign of King Henry VIII. Mary was one of the mistresses of Henry VIII for an unknown period of time. It has been rumoured that she bore two of the king's children, though Henry did not acknowledge either of them as he had acknowledged Henry FitzRoy, his son by another mistress, Elizabeth Blount. Mary was also rumoured to have been a mistress of Henry VIII's rival, King Francis I of France, for some period between 1515 and 1519.Mary Boleyn was married twice: in 1520 to William Carey, and again, secretly, in 1534, to William Stafford, a soldier from a good family but with few prospects. This secret marriage to a man considered beneath her station angered both King Henry VIII and her sister, Queen Anne, and resulted in Mary's banishment from the royal court. She died seven years later, having spent the remainder of her life in obscurity.
With an HPI of 79.89, Jane Seymour is the 3rd most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 56 different languages.
Jane Seymour (c. 1508 – 24 October 1537), also known as Jane Semel, was the third queen consort of King Henry VIII of England from their marriage on 30 May 1536 until her death the next year. She became queen following the execution of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn. She died of postnatal complications less than two weeks after the birth of her only child, later King Edward VI. She was the only wife of Henry to receive a queen's funeral or to be buried beside him in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
With an HPI of 79.66, Elizabeth of York is the 4th most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 48 different languages.
Elizabeth of York (11 February 1466 – 11 February 1503) was Queen of England from her marriage to King Henry VII on 18 January 1486 until her death. Elizabeth married Henry after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. Together, they had seven children. Elizabeth's younger brothers, the "Princes in the Tower", mysteriously disappeared shortly after the death of her father, King Edward IV. Although the 1484 act of Parliament Titulus Regius declared the marriage of her parents, Edward and Elizabeth Woodville, invalid, she and her sisters were subsequently welcomed back to court by Edward's brother, King Richard III. As a Yorkist princess, the final victory of the Lancastrian faction in the Wars of the Roses may have seemed a further disaster, but Henry Tudor knew the importance of Yorkist support for his invasion and promised to marry Elizabeth before he arrived in England. This may well have contributed to the haemorrhaging of Yorkist support for Richard.Although Elizabeth seems to have played little part in politics, her marriage appears to have been a successful and happy one. Her eldest son Arthur, Prince of Wales, died at age 15 in 1502, and three other children died young. Her second, and only surviving, son became King Henry VIII of England, while her daughters Mary and Margaret became queens of France and of Scotland, respectively; many modern royals, including Elizabeth II, trace their line through Margaret.
With an HPI of 79.01, Victoria, Princess Royal is the 5th most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 44 different languages.
Victoria, Princess Royal (Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa; 21 November 1840 – 5 August 1901) was German Empress and Queen of Prussia as the wife of German Emperor Frederick III. She was the eldest child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Albert, Prince Consort, and was created Princess Royal in 1841. She was the mother of Wilhelm II, German Emperor. Educated by her father in a politically liberal environment, Victoria was married at age 17 to Prince Frederick of Prussia, with whom she had eight children. Victoria shared with Frederick her liberal views and hopes that Prussia and the later German Empire should become a constitutional monarchy, based on the British model. Criticised for this attitude and for her English origins, Victoria suffered ostracism by the Hohenzollerns and the Berlin court. This isolation increased after the rise to power of Otto von Bismarck (one of her most staunch political opponents) in 1862. Victoria was empress for only a few months, during which she had opportunity to influence the policy of the German Empire. Frederick III died in 1888 – 99 days after his accession – from laryngeal cancer and was succeeded by their son William II, who had much more conservative views than his parents. After her husband's death, she became widely known as Empress Frederick (German: Kaiserin Friedrich). The empress dowager then settled in Kronberg im Taunus, where she built Friedrichshof, a castle, named in honour of her late husband. Increasingly isolated after the weddings of her younger daughters, Victoria died of breast cancer on 5 August 1901, not long after her mother's death on 22 January 1901. The correspondence between Victoria and her parents has been preserved almost completely: 3,777 letters from Queen Victoria to her eldest daughter, and about 4,000 letters from the empress to her mother are preserved and catalogued. These give a detailed insight into life at the Prussian court between 1858 and 1900.
With an HPI of 77.93, Elizabeth Woodville is the 6th most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Elizabeth Woodville (also spelled Wydville, Wydeville, or Widvile) (c. 1437 – 8 June 1492) was Queen of England as the wife of King Edward IV from 1464 until his death in 1483. At the time of her birth, her family was of middle rank in the English social hierarchy. Her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, had previously been an aunt-by-marriage to Henry VI. Elizabeth's first marriage was to a minor supporter of the House of Lancaster, Sir John Grey of Groby. He died at the Second Battle of St Albans, leaving Elizabeth a widowed mother of two sons. Her second marriage to Edward IV was a cause célèbre of the day, thanks to Elizabeth's great beauty and lack of great estates. Edward was the first king of England since the Norman Conquest to marry one of his subjects, and Elizabeth was the first such consort to be crowned queen. Her marriage greatly enriched her siblings and children, but their advancement incurred the hostility of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, 'The Kingmaker', and his various alliances with the most senior figures in the increasingly divided royal family. This hostility turned into open discord between King Edward and Warwick, leading to a battle of wills that finally resulted in Warwick switching allegiance to the Lancastrian cause, and to the execution of Elizabeth's father, Richard Woodville, in 1469. After the death of her husband in 1483, Elizabeth remained politically influential even after her son, briefly proclaimed King Edward V of England, was deposed by her brother-in-law, Richard III. Edward and his younger brother Richard both disappeared soon afterward, and are presumed to have been murdered. Elizabeth subsequently played an important role in securing the accession of Henry VII in 1485. Henry married her daughter Elizabeth of York, ended the Wars of the Roses, and established the Tudor dynasty. Through her daughter, Elizabeth was a grandmother of the future Henry VIII. Elizabeth was forced to yield pre-eminence to Henry VII's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort; her influence on events in these years, and her eventual departure from court into retirement, remain obscure.
With an HPI of 77.86, Anne Hathaway is the 7th most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Anne Hathaway (1556 – 6 August 1623) was the wife of William Shakespeare, the English poet, playwright and actor. They were married in 1582, when Hathaway was 26 years old and Shakespeare was 18. She outlived her husband by seven years. Very little is known about her life beyond a few references in legal documents. Her personality and relationship to Shakespeare have been the subject of much speculation by many historians and writers.
With an HPI of 77.53, Princess Helena of the United Kingdom is the 8th most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 30 different languages.
Princess Helena Augusta Victoria of the United Kingdom (25 May 1846 – 9 June 1923), later Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, was the third daughter and fifth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Helena was educated by private tutors chosen by her father and his close friend and adviser, Baron Stockmar. Her childhood was spent with her parents, travelling between a variety of royal residences in Britain. The intimate atmosphere of the royal court came to an end on 14 December 1861, when her father died and her mother entered a period of intense mourning. Afterwards, in the early 1860s, Helena began a flirtation with Prince Albert's German librarian, Carl Ruland. Although the nature of the relationship is largely unknown, Helena's romantic letters to Ruland survive. After the Queen found out in 1863, she dismissed Ruland, who returned to his native Germany. Three years later, on 5 July 1866, Helena married the impoverished Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. The couple remained in Britain, in calling distance of the Queen, who liked to have her daughters nearby. Helena, along with her youngest sister, Princess Beatrice, became the Queen's unofficial secretary. However, after Queen Victoria's death on 22 January 1901, Helena saw relatively little of her surviving siblings, including King Edward VII. Helena was the most active member of the royal family, carrying out an extensive programme of royal engagements. She was also an active patron of charities, and was one of the founding members of the British Red Cross. She was founding president of the Royal School of Needlework, and president of the Workhouse Infirmary Nursing Association and the Royal British Nurses' Association. As president of the latter, she was a strong supporter of nurse registration against the advice of Florence Nightingale. In 1916 she became the first member of her family to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary, but her husband died a year later. Helena outlived him by six years, dying aged 77 in 1923.
With an HPI of 77.21, Catherine Howard is the 9th most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 52 different languages.
Catherine Howard (c. 1523 – 13 February 1542) was Queen of England from 1540 until 1541 as the fifth wife of Henry VIII. She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper, cousin to Anne Boleyn (the second wife of Henry VIII), and niece to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard was a prominent politician at Henry's court, and he secured her a place in the household of Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, where she caught the King's interest. She married him on 28 July 1540 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, just 19 days after the annulment of his marriage to Anne. He was 49, and she was still a teenager, at about 17 years old. Catherine was stripped of her title as queen in November 1541. She was beheaded three months later on the grounds of treason for committing adultery with her distant cousin Thomas Culpeper.
With an HPI of 77.07, Catherine Parr is the 10th most famous British Companion. Her biography has been translated into 49 different languages.
Catherine Parr, sometimes alternatively spelled Katherine, Katheryn, Kateryn or Katharine (c. August 1512 – 5 September 1548), was Queen of England and Ireland (1543–47) as the last of the six wives of King Henry VIII, and the final queen consort of the House of Tudor. She married him on 12 July 1543, and outlived him by a year and eight months. With four husbands, she is the most-married English queen. She was the first woman to publish under her own name in English in England.Catherine enjoyed a close relationship with Henry's three children and was personally involved in the education of her stepchildren Elizabeth I and Edward VI. She was influential in Henry's passing of the Third Succession Act in 1543 that restored both his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, to the line of succession to the throne.Catherine was appointed regent from July to September 1544 while Henry was on a military campaign in France and in case he lost his life, she was to rule as regent until Edward came of age. However, he did not give her any function in government in his will. In 1543, she published her first book, Psalms or Prayers, anonymously. On account of Catherine's Protestant sympathies, she provoked the enmity of anti-Protestant officials, who sought to turn the King against her; a warrant for her arrest was drawn up in 1545. However, she and the King soon reconciled. Her book Prayers or Meditations became the first book published by an English queen under her own name. She assumed the role of Elizabeth's guardian following the King's death, and published a second book, The Lamentation of a Sinner. Henry died on 28 January 1547. After the king's death, Catherine was allowed to keep the queen's jewels and dresses as queen dowager. About six months after Henry's death, she married her fourth and final husband, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley. The marriage was short-lived, as she died on Wednesday, 5 September 1548 due to complications of childbirth. Parr's funeral was held on 7 September 1548. Parr's funeral was the first Protestant funeral in England, Scotland or Ireland to be held in English.
Pantheon has 56 people classified as companions born between 844 and 1982. Of these 56, 4 (7.14%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living companions include Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece. The most famous deceased companions include Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, and Jane Seymour. As of October 2020, 3 new companions have been added to Pantheon including Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein, Ælfthryth, wife of Edgar, and Samantha Cameron.
1501 - 1536
1499 - 1543
1508 - 1537
1466 - 1503
1840 - 1901
1437 - 1492
1556 - 1623
1846 - 1923
1523 - 1542
1512 - 1548
1496 - 1533
Which Companions were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 20 most globally memorable Companions since 1700.