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Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Ten greatest Britons chosen
Churchill, Darwin, Shakespeare, Brunel, Newton, Nelson, Cromwell, Princess Diana, Lennon, Elizabeth I
Politics, science and the arts are all represented
McCartney is out and Lennon is in while Diana, Princess Of Wales makes the grade but her former husband Prince Charles does not.

The top 10 greatest Britons of all time have been chosen - selected from a BBC phone and internet poll involving more than 30,000 Britons.

Only three of the top 10 are from the 20th century - Lennon, Churchill and Princess Diana.

Three are scientists or engineers - Brunel, Darwin and Newton - and three are national leaders - Cromwell, Elizabeth I and Churchill.

    The full list is:
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  • Winston Churchill
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • Charles Darwin
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Queen Elizabeth I
  • John Lennon
  • Horatio Nelson
  • Isaac Newton
  • William Shakespeare

Among those in the lower reaches who failed to make the 10 were Captain James Cook, Sir Francis Drake, Johnny Rotten, Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Chaucer.

The Queen failed to make it into the top 10, but Elizabeth I did.


BBC2 controller Jane Root said: "I think the top 10 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.

Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill was a more predictable victor
"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."

It has certainly sparked the imagination of those posting on the series' messageboard, where alternative nominees have been as varied as penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, "godfather of the computer" Alan Turing, women's rights campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst and composer Edward Elgar.

For the next few weeks historians and celebrities will profile their favourites among the ten in a series of programmes, ahead of a final vote to find the greatest ever Briton.

Among those arguing for their favourites will be comic Alan Davies who will be putting the case for Lennon, while Jeremy Clarkson is behind Brunel.

Other presenters making the case for their favourites include Mo Mowlam and Michael Portillo.

Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I in the only monarch in the top 10
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 to try to swing late 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.

None of the top 10 is still alive, which some analysts say indicates that Britain is not as obsessed with current celebrity as it might appear.

Helen Haste, an expert on cultural icons who is based at Bath University, said: "Just because people enjoy reading about celebrities in magazines, it does not mean they will give them a place in the chronicles of history.

"People perceive celebrities as being famous for being famous and as a short-term thing - someone to entertain them but not to be taken seriously."

But quiz show host Anne Robinson has said she was "dumbfounded" Diana, Princess of Wales made the list.

"To regard her as a great Briton seems to be absurd," she said.

See also:

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