The Most Famous

POLITICIANS from United Kingdom

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This page contains a list of the greatest British Politicians. The pantheon dataset contains 15,577 Politicians, 722 of which were born in United Kingdom. This makes United Kingdom the birth place of the 5th most number of Politicians behind France, and Italy.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Politicians of all time. This list of famous British Politicians 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 Politicians.

Photo of Elizabeth I of England

1. Elizabeth I of England (1533 - 1603)

With an HPI of 85.94, Elizabeth I of England is the most famous British Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 145 different languages on wikipedia.

Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603. She was the last monarch of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed when Elizabeth was two years old. Anne's marriage to Henry was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Henry restored her to the line of succession when she was 10, via the Third Succession Act 1543. After Henry's death in 1547, Elizabeth's younger half-brother Edward VI ruled until his own death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to a Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, the Catholic Mary and the younger Elizabeth, in spite of statutes to the contrary. Edward's will was set aside within weeks of his death and Mary became queen, deposing and executing Jane. During Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels. Upon her half-sister's death in 1558, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers led by William Cecil, whom she created Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the supreme governor. This era, later named the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, would evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir; however, despite numerous courtships, she never did, and because of this she is sometimes referred to as the "Virgin Queen". She was eventually succeeded by her first cousin twice removed, James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and siblings had been. One of her mottoes was video et taceo ("I see and keep silent"). In religion, she was relatively tolerant and avoided systematic persecution. After the pope declared her illegitimate in 1570, which in theory released English Catholics from allegiance to her, several conspiracies threatened her life, all of which were defeated with the help of her ministers' secret service, run by Sir Francis Walsingham. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. She half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain. As she grew older, Elizabeth became celebrated for her virginity. A cult of personality grew around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day. Elizabeth's reign became known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, the prowess of English maritime adventurers, such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, and for the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Some historians depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her fair share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer ("Gloriana") and a dogged survivor ("Good Queen Bess") in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. After the short, disastrous reigns of her half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped to forge a sense of national identity.

Photo of Winston Churchill

2. Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

With an HPI of 85.10, Winston Churchill is the 2nd most famous British Politician.  His biography has been translated into 171 different languages.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Apart from two years between 1922 and 1924, he was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1900 to 1964 and represented a total of five constituencies. Ideologically an adherent to economic liberalism and imperialism, he was for most of his career a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955. He was a member of the Liberal Party from 1904 to 1924. Of mixed English and American parentage, Churchill was born in Oxfordshire into the wealthy, aristocratic Spencer family. He joined the British Army in 1895 and saw action in British India, the Mahdist War (also known as the Anglo-Sudan War), and the Second Boer War, later gaining fame as a war correspondent and writing books about his campaigns. Elected a Conservative MP in 1900, he defected to the Liberals in 1904. In H. H. Asquith's Liberal government, Churchill served as President of the Board of Trade and Home Secretary, championing prison reform and workers' social security. As First Lord of the Admiralty during the First World War, he oversaw the Gallipoli campaign, but after it proved a disaster, he was demoted to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He resigned in November 1915 and joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front for six months. In 1917, he returned to government under David Lloyd George and served successively as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, and Secretary of State for the Colonies, overseeing the Anglo-Irish Treaty and British foreign policy in the Middle East. After two years out of Parliament, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government, returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure and depressing the UK economy. Out of government during his so-called "wilderness years" in the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in calling for British rearmament to counter the growing threat of militarism in Nazi Germany. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was re-appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. In May 1940, he became prime minister, succeeding Neville Chamberlain. Churchill formed a national government and oversaw British involvement in the Allied war effort against the Axis powers, resulting in victory in 1945. After the Conservatives' defeat in the 1945 general election, he became Leader of the Opposition. Amid the developing Cold War with the Soviet Union, he publicly warned of an "iron curtain" of Soviet influence in Europe and promoted European unity. Between his terms as prime minister, he wrote several books recounting his experience during the war. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. He lost the 1950 election but was returned to office in 1951. His second term was preoccupied with foreign affairs, especially Anglo-American relations and preservation of what remained of the British Empire with India now no longer part of it. Domestically, his government emphasised housebuilding and completed the development of a nuclear weapon (begun by his predecessor). In declining health, Churchill resigned as prime minister in 1955, remaining an MP until 1964. Upon his death in 1965, he was given a state funeral. One of the 20th century's most significant figures, Churchill remains popular in the UK and the rest of the Anglosphere where he is generally viewed as a victorious wartime leader who played an important role in defending liberal democracy against the spread of fascism. While he has been criticised for his views on race and empire alongside some of his wartime decisions, historians often rank Churchill as the greatest prime minister in British history.

Photo of Richard III of England

3. Richard III of England (1452 - 1485)

With an HPI of 84.76, Richard III of England is the 3rd most famous British Politician.  His biography has been translated into 77 different languages.

Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England from 26 June 1483 until his death in 1485. He was the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty and its cadet branch the House of York. His defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth Field marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. Richard was created Duke of Gloucester in 1461 after the accession of his brother Edward IV. In 1472, he married Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick and widow of Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI. He governed northern England during Edward's reign, and played a role in the invasion of Scotland in 1482. When Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward's eldest son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. Before arrangements were complete for Edward V's coronation, scheduled for 22 June 1483, the marriage of his parents was declared bigamous and therefore invalid. Now officially illegitimate, Edward and his siblings were barred from inheriting the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of lords and commoners endorsed a declaration to this effect, and proclaimed Richard as the rightful king. He was crowned on 6 July 1483. Edward and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, called the "Princes in the Tower", disappeared from the Tower of London around August 1483. There were two major rebellions against Richard during his reign. In October 1483, an unsuccessful revolt was led by staunch allies of Edward IV and Richard's former ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Then, in August 1485, Henry Tudor and his uncle, Jasper Tudor, landed in Wales with a contingent of French troops, and marched through Pembrokeshire, recruiting soldiers. Henry's forces defeated Richard's army near the Leicestershire town of Market Bosworth. Richard was slain, making him the last English king to die in battle. Henry Tudor then ascended the throne as Henry VII. Richard's corpse was taken to the nearby town of Leicester and buried without ceremony. His original tomb monument is believed to have been removed during the English Reformation, and his remains were wrongly thought to have been thrown into the River Soar. In 2012, an archaeological excavation was commissioned by Philippa Langley with the assistance of the Richard III Society on the site previously occupied by Grey Friars Priory. The University of Leicester identified the human skeleton found at the site as that of Richard III as a result of radiocarbon dating, comparison with contemporary reports of his appearance, identification of trauma sustained at Bosworth and comparison of his mitochondrial DNA with that of two matrilineal descendants of his sister Anne. He was reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

Photo of William IV of the United Kingdom

4. William IV of the United Kingdom (1765 - 1837)

With an HPI of 83.50, William IV of the United Kingdom is the 4th most famous British Politician.  His biography has been translated into 85 different languages.

William IV (William Henry; 21 August 1765 – 20 June 1837) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death in 1837. The third son of George III, William succeeded his elder brother George IV, becoming the last king and penultimate monarch of Britain's House of Hanover. William served in the Royal Navy in his youth, spending time in British North America and the Caribbean, and was later nicknamed the "Sailor King". In 1789, he was created Duke of Clarence and St Andrews. Between 1791 and 1811, he cohabited with the actress Dorothea Jordan, with whom he had ten children. In 1818, he married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. William remained faithful to Adelaide during their marriage. In 1827, he was appointed Britain's first Lord High Admiral since 1709. As his two elder brothers died without leaving legitimate issue, William inherited the throne when he was 64 years old. His reign saw several reforms: the Poor Law was updated, child labour restricted, slavery abolished in nearly all of the British Empire, and the electoral system refashioned by the Reform Acts of 1832. Although William did not engage in politics as much as his brother or his father, he was the last British monarch to appoint a prime minister contrary to the will of Parliament. He granted his German kingdom a short-lived liberal constitution. William had no surviving legitimate children at the time of his death, so he was succeeded by his niece Victoria in the United Kingdom and his brother Ernest Augustus in Hanover.

Photo of Queen Victoria

5. Queen Victoria (1819 - 1901)

With an HPI of 82.91, Queen Victoria is the 5th most famous British Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 139 different languages.

Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 216 days—which was longer than those of any of her predecessors—constituted the Victorian era. It was a period of industrial, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. In 1876, the British Parliament voted to grant her the additional title of Empress of India. Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (the fourth son of King George III), and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. After the deaths of her father and grandfather in 1820, she was raised under close supervision by her mother and her comptroller, John Conroy. She inherited the throne aged 18 after her father's three elder brothers died without surviving legitimate issue. Victoria, a constitutional monarch, attempted privately to influence government policy and ministerial appointments; publicly, she became a national icon who was identified with strict standards of personal morality. Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840. Their nine children married into royal and noble families across the continent, earning Victoria the sobriquet "grandmother of Europe". After Albert's death in 1861, Victoria plunged into deep mourning and avoided public appearances. As a result of her seclusion, British republicanism temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered. Her Golden and Diamond jubilees were times of public celebration. Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, at the age of 81. The last British monarch of the House of Hanover, she was succeeded by her son Edward VII of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Photo of Richard I of England

6. Richard I of England (1157 - 1199)

With an HPI of 82.84, Richard I of England is the 6th most famous British Politician.  His biography has been translated into 95 different languages.

Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199), known as Richard Cœur de Lion (Norman French: Quor de Lion) or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior, was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, and Gascony; Lord of Cyprus; Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes; and was overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He was the third of five sons of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and was therefore not expected to become king, but his two elder brothers predeceased their father. By the age of 16, Richard had taken command of his own army, putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father. Richard was an important Christian commander during the Third Crusade, leading the campaign after the departure of Philip II of France and achieving several victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin, although he finalised a peace treaty and ended the campaign without retaking Jerusalem. Richard probably spoke both French and Occitan. He was born in England, where he spent his childhood; before becoming king, however, he lived most of his adult life in the Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France. Following his accession, he spent very little time, perhaps as little as six months, in England. Most of his reign was spent on Crusade, in captivity, or actively defending his lands in France. Rather than regarding his kingdom as a responsibility requiring his presence as ruler, he has been perceived as preferring to use it merely as a source of revenue to support his armies. Nevertheless, he was seen as a pious hero by his subjects. He remains one of the few kings of England remembered more commonly by his epithet than his regnal number, and is an enduring iconic figure both in England and in France.

Photo of Mary II of England

7. Mary II of England (1662 - 1694)

With an HPI of 81.52, Mary II of England is the 7th most famous British Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Mary II (30 April 1662 – 28 December 1694) was Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, co-reigning with her husband, King William III and II, from 1689 until her death in 1694. She was also Princess of Orange following her marriage on 4 November 1677. Her joint reign with William over Britain is known as that of William and Mary. Mary was born during the reign of her uncle King Charles II. She was the eldest daughter of James, Duke of York (the future James II of England), and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Mary and her sister Anne were raised as Anglicans at the behest of Charles II, although their parents both converted to Roman Catholicism. Charles lacked legitimate children, making Mary second in the line of succession. At the age of 15, she married her cousin William of Orange, a Protestant. Charles died in 1685 and James became king, making Mary heir presumptive. James's attempts at rule by decree and the birth of his son from a second marriage, James Francis Edward (later known as "the Old Pretender"), led to his deposition in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the adoption of the English Bill of Rights. William and Mary became king and queen regnant. Mary mostly deferred to her husband – a renowned military leader and principal opponent of Louis XIV – when he was in England. She did, however, act alone when William was engaged in military campaigns abroad, proving herself to be a powerful, firm, and effective ruler. Mary's death from smallpox at the age of 32 left William as sole ruler until his death in 1702, when he was succeeded by Mary's sister, Anne.

Photo of Margaret Thatcher

8. Margaret Thatcher (1925 - 2013)

With an HPI of 81.05, Margaret Thatcher is the 8th most famous British Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 148 different languages.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, (née Roberts; 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013) was a British stateswoman and Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold the position. As prime minister, she implemented economic policies known as Thatcherism. A Soviet journalist dubbed her the "Iron Lady", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. Thatcher studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, and worked briefly as a research chemist before becoming a barrister. She was elected Member of Parliament for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath appointed her secretary of state for education and science in his 1970–1974 government. In 1975, she defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become leader of the opposition, the first woman to lead a major political party in the UK. On becoming prime minister after winning the 1979 general election, Thatcher introduced a series of economic policies intended to reverse high inflation and Britain's struggles in the wake of the Winter of Discontent and an oncoming recession. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised greater individual liberty, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Her popularity in her first years in office waned amid recession and rising unemployment. Victory in the 1982 Falklands War and the recovering economy brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her landslide re-election in 1983. She survived an assassination attempt by the Provisional IRA in the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing and achieved a political victory against the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1984–85 miners' strike. In 1986, Thatcher oversaw the deregulation of UK financial markets, leading to an economic boom, in what came to be known as the Big Bang. Thatcher was re-elected for a third term with another landslide in 1987, but her subsequent support for the Community Charge (also known as the "poll tax") was widely unpopular, and her increasingly Eurosceptic views on the European Community were not shared by others in her cabinet. She resigned as prime minister and party leader in 1990, after a challenge was launched to her leadership, and was succeeded by John Major, the chancellor of the Exchequer. After retiring from the Commons in 1992, she was given a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher (of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire) which entitled her to sit in the House of Lords. In 2013, she died of a stroke at the Ritz Hotel, London, at the age of 87. A polarising figure in British politics, Thatcher is nonetheless viewed favourably in historical rankings and public opinion of British prime ministers. Her tenure constituted a realignment towards neoliberal policies in Britain; the complex legacy attributed to this shift continues to be debated into the 21st century.

Photo of Mary I of England

9. Mary I of England (1516 - 1558)

With an HPI of 80.18, Mary I of England is the 9th most famous British Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 87 different languages.

Mary I (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558), also known as Mary Tudor, and as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant opponents, was Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 and Queen of Spain and the Habsburg dominions as the wife of King Philip II from January 1556 until her death in 1558. She is best known for her vigorous attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, King Henry VIII. Her attempt to restore to the Church the property confiscated in the previous two reigns was largely thwarted by Parliament, but during her five-year reign, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions. Mary was the only surviving child of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She was declared illegitimate and barred from the line of succession following the annulment of her parents' marriage in 1533, though she would later be restored via the Third Succession Act 1543. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded their father in 1547 at the age of nine. When Edward became terminally ill in 1553, he attempted to remove Mary from the line of succession because he supposed, correctly, that she would reverse the Protestant reforms that had taken place during his reign. Upon his death, leading politicians proclaimed Mary's and Edward's Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as queen instead. Mary speedily assembled a force in East Anglia and deposed Jane, who was eventually beheaded. Mary was—excluding the disputed reigns of Jane and the Empress Matilda—the first queen regnant of England. In July 1554, Mary married Prince Philip of Spain, becoming queen consort of Habsburg Spain on his accession in 1556. After Mary's death in 1558, her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I.

Photo of John Major

10. John Major (b. 1943)

With an HPI of 79.85, John Major is the 10th most famous British Politician.  His biography has been translated into 93 different languages.

Sir John Major (born 29 March 1943) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997. He previously held Cabinet positions under prime minister Margaret Thatcher, his last as chancellor of the Exchequer from 1989 to 1990. Major was Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon, formerly Huntingdonshire, from 1979 to 2001. Since stepping down as an MP in 2001, Major has focused on writing and his business, sporting and charity work, and has occasionally commented on political developments in the role of an elder statesman. Having left school just before his sixteenth birthday, Major worked as an insurance clerk and joined the Young Conservatives in 1959, and soon became a highly active member. He was elected to Lambeth London Borough Council in 1968 and a decade later to parliament, being elected as the Conservative MP for Huntingdonshire in the 1979 general election. Major held several junior government positions under Thatcher from 1984 to 1987, including parliamentary private secretary and assistant whip. He served in Thatcher's third ministry as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1987 to 1989, Foreign Secretary in 1989, and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1989 to 1990. Following Thatcher's resignation in 1990, after a challenge was launched to her leadership, Major stood in the 1990 Conservative leadership election to replace her and emerged victorious, becoming prime minister. His mild-mannered style and moderate political stance contrasted with that of Thatcher. Two years into his premiership, Major went on to lead the Conservative Party to a fourth consecutive electoral victory, winning more than 14 million votes, which remains the highest number ever won by a political party in Britain. As prime minister, Major created the Citizen's Charter, removed the Poll Tax and replaced it with the Council Tax, committed British troops to the Gulf War, took charge of the UK's negotiations over the Maastricht Treaty, led the country during the early 1990s economic crisis, withdrew the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (on Black Wednesday), promoted the socially conservative back to basics campaign, privatised the railways and coal industry, and played a pivotal role in creating peace in Northern Ireland. In 1995, Major resigned as party leader, amid internal divisions over UK membership of the European Union, parliamentary scandals (widely known as "sleaze") and questions over his economic credibility. Despite being reelected as Conservative leader in the 1995 leadership election, his administration remained unpopular, and soon lost its parliamentary majority. The Labour Party pulled ahead of the Conservatives in every local election during Major's leadership, which increased after Tony Blair became Labour leader in 1994. The Conservatives were defeated in a landslide in the 1997 general election, ending 18 years of Conservative rule. After Blair succeeded Major as prime minister, Major served as Leader of the Opposition for seven weeks while the leadership election to replace him took place. He formed a temporary shadow cabinet, and Major himself served as shadow foreign secretary and shadow secretary of state for defence. His resignation as Conservative leader formally took effect in June 1997 following the election of William Hague. He remained active in Parliament, regularly attending and contributing in debates, until he stood down at the 2001 election to focus on writing and his business, sporting and charity work. Since leaving office, Major has tended to maintain a low profile in the media, occasionally making political interventions. He supported the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union, and has often criticised Brexit since the outcome of the 2016 referendum. Major was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 for services to politics and charity, and was made a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in 1999 for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process. Although public favourability of Major has improved since he left office, his premiership has generally been viewed as average in historical rankings and public opinion of British prime ministers.

People

Pantheon has 785 people classified as British politicians born between 15 and 1997. Of these 785, 182 (23.18%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living British politicians include John Major, Tony Blair, and Liz Truss. The most famous deceased British politicians include Elizabeth I of England, Winston Churchill, and Richard III of England. As of April 2024, 61 new British politicians have been added to Pantheon including William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, William, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe, and James Douglas, Lord of Douglas.

Living British Politicians

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Deceased British Politicians

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Newly Added British Politicians (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.