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.
With an HPI of 90.91, Elizabeth I of England is the most famous British Politician. Her biography has been translated into 136 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. Sometimes referred to as the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed when Elizabeth was 21⁄2 years old. Anne's marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother Edward VI ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, the Roman Catholic Mary and the younger Elizabeth, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward's will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. 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, 1st 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 Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir; however, despite numerous courtships, she never did. She was eventually succeeded by her first-cousin twice-removed, James VI of Scotland, laying the foundation for the Kingdom of Great Britain. She had earlier been reluctantly responsible for the imprisonment and execution of James's mother, Mary, Queen of Scots. In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-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 and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life, all of which were defeated with the help of her ministers' secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. She only 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, and for the prowess of English maritime adventurers such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh. 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. However, Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor 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 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.
With an HPI of 89.73, Winston Churchill is the 2nd most famous British Politician. His biography has been translated into 154 different languages.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Best known for his wartime leadership as Prime Minister, Churchill was also a Sandhurst-educated soldier, a Boer War hero, a Nobel Prize-winning writer and historian, a prolific painter, and one of the longest-serving politicians in British history. 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 economic liberal and imperialist, 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 to a wealthy, aristocratic family. He joined the British Army in 1895 and saw action in British India, the Anglo-Sudan War, and the Second Boer War, 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, replacing 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. 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 the preservation of the British Empire. Domestically, his government emphasised house-building and completed the development of a nuclear weapon (begun by his predecessor). In declining health, Churchill resigned as Prime Minister in 1955, although he remained an MP until 1964. Upon his death in 1965, he was given a state funeral. Widely considered one of the 20th century's most significant figures, Churchill remains popular in the UK and Western world, where he is seen as a victorious wartime leader who played an important role in defending Europe's liberal democracy against the spread of fascism. He is also praised as a social reformer. However, he has been criticised for some wartime events – notably the area bombing of German cities and his government's response to the Bengal famine – and also for his imperialist views, including comments on race.
With an HPI of 89.14, Queen Victoria is the 3rd most famous British Politician. Her biography has been translated into 132 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. Known as the Victorian era, her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than any previous British monarch. 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. Though a constitutional monarch, Victoria privately attempted 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 children married into royal and noble families across the continent, earning Victoria the sobriquet "the grandmother of Europe" and spreading haemophilia in European royalty. 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. She died on the Isle of Wight in 1901. 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.
With an HPI of 87.93, Richard III of England is the 4th most famous British Politician. His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.
Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 26 June 1483 until his death in 1485. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the protagonist of Richard III, one of William Shakespeare's history plays. Richard was created Duke of Gloucester in 1461 after the accession of his brother King Edward IV. In 1472, he married Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. 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. Arrangements were made for Edward V's coronation on 22 June 1483. Before the king could be crowned, the marriage of his parents was declared bigamous and therefore invalid. Now officially illegitimate, their children 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", were not seen in public after August, and accusations circulated that they had been murdered on King Richard's orders. 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 southern 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 the Richard III Society on the site previously occupied by Grey Friars Priory. The University of Leicester identified the skeleton found in the excavation as that of Richard III as a result of radiocarbon dating, comparison with contemporary reports of his appearance, and comparison of his mitochondrial DNA with that of two matrilineal descendants of his sister Anne. He was reburied in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.
With an HPI of 87.23, Mary, Queen of Scots is the 5th most famous British Politician. Her biography has been translated into 87 different languages.
Mary, Queen of Scots (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587), also known as Mary Stuart, was Queen of Scotland from 14 December 1542 until her forced abdication in 1567. Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne. She spent most of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents. In 1558 she married the Dauphin of France, Francis. Mary was queen consort of France from his accession in 1559 until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland in August 1561. In the early years of her personal rule, which followed the Scottish Reformation, she was a tolerant ruler in religious matters, governing as the Catholic monarch of a Protestant country and accepting the new religious settlement. Mary married her half-cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, in 1565 and in June 1566 they had a son, James. In February 1567, Darnley's residence was destroyed by an explosion, and he was found murdered in the garden. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was generally believed to have orchestrated Darnley's death, but he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567, and the following month he married Mary. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On 24 July 1567, she was forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southward seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mary had once claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in a rebellion known as the Rising of the North. Perceiving Mary as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in various castles and manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth in 1586 and was beheaded the following year at Fotheringhay Castle. Mary's life, marriages, lineage, alleged involvement in plots against Elizabeth, and subsequent execution established her as a divisive and highly romanticised historical character, depicted in culture for centuries.
With an HPI of 86.72, Richard I of England is the 6th most famous British Politician. His biography has been translated into 90 different languages.
Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, and 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 King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and seemed unlikely to become king, but all his brothers except the youngest, John, predeceased their father. Richard is known as Richard Cœur de Lion (Norman French: Le quor de lion) or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior. The troubadour Bertran de Born also called him Richard Oc-e-Non (Occitan for Yes and No), possibly from a reputation for terseness.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 considerable 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 life as king 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.
With an HPI of 86.34, Mary I of England is the 7th most famous British Politician. Her biography has been translated into 81 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 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, 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 child of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to survive to adulthood. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded their father in 1547 at the age of nine. When Edward became mortally 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 Lady Jane Grey as queen. Mary speedily assembled a force in East Anglia and deposed Jane, who was ultimately beheaded. Mary was—excluding the disputed reigns of Jane and the Empress Matilda—the first queen regnant of England. In July 1554, Mary married Philip of Spain, becoming queen consort of Habsburg Spain on his accession in January 1556. After Mary's death in 1558, her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I.
With an HPI of 86.06, Margaret Thatcher is the 8th most famous British Politician. Her biography has been translated into 136 different languages.
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (née Roberts; 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013), was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. The longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, she was the first woman to hold that office. As prime minister, she implemented policies that became 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 United Kingdom. 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 deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), 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, until 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. Thatcher was re-elected for a third term with another landslide in 1987, but her subsequent support for the Community Charge ("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. 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 the UK, with debate over the complicated legacy attributed to Thatcherism persisting into the 21st century.
With an HPI of 85.90, Mary II of England is the 9th most famous British Politician. Her biography has been translated into 69 different languages.
Mary II (30 April 1662 – 28 December 1694) was Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, co-reigning with her husband, William III & II, from 1689 until her death in 1694. Mary was the eldest daughter of James, Duke of York, and his first wife Anne Hyde. Mary and her sister Anne were raised as Anglicans at the behest of their uncle, King Charles II, although their parents both converted to Roman Catholicism. Charles lacked legitimate children, making Mary second in the line of succession. She married her Protestant first cousin, William of Orange, in 1677. Charles died in 1685 and James took the throne, making Mary heir presumptive. James's attempts at rule by decree and the birth of his son from a second marriage, James Francis Edward, 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 William, 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.
With an HPI of 84.75, Henry V of England is the 10th most famous British Politician. His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.
Henry V (16 September 1386 – 31 August 1422), also called Henry of Monmouth, was King of England from 1413 until his death in 1422. Despite his relatively short reign, Henry's outstanding military successes in the Hundred Years' War against France made England one of the strongest military powers in Europe. Immortalised in Shakespeare's "Henriad" plays, Henry is known and celebrated as one of the greatest warrior kings of medieval England. During the reign of his father Henry IV, Henry gained military experience fighting the Welsh during the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr and against the powerful aristocratic Percy family of Northumberland at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Henry acquired an increasing role in England's government due to the king's declining health, but disagreements between father and son led to political conflict between the two. After his father's death in 1413, Henry assumed control of the country and asserted the pending English claim to the French throne. In 1415, Henry embarked on war with France in the ongoing Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) between the two nations. His military successes culminated in his famous victory at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) and saw him come close to conquering France. Taking advantage of political divisions within France, he conquered large portions of the kingdom, resulting in Normandy's occupation by the English for the first time since 1345–1360. After months of negotiation with Charles VI of France, the Treaty of Troyes (1420) recognised Henry V as regent and heir apparent to the French throne, and he was subsequently married to Charles' daughter, Catherine of Valois. Everything seemed to point to the formation of a union between the kingdoms, in the person of Henry. However, he died two years later and was succeeded by his only child, the infant Henry VI.
Pantheon has 640 people classified as politicians born between 15 and 1994. Of these 640, 144 (22.50%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Theresa May, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown. The most famous deceased politicians include Elizabeth I of England, Winston Churchill, and Queen Victoria. As of October 2020, 56 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Nathan Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild, Lord Leopold Mountbatten, and Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.