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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 02:10 GMT
'Worst' historical Britons named
Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists
Historians have put together a list of the 10 "worst" Britons of the last 1,000 years.

They chose one rogue from each century of the last millennium to compile the list for the BBC History Magazine.

Jack the Ripper, King John and Oswald Mosley - founder of the British Union of Fascists - are among the selection.

Magazine editor Dave Musgrove said the different "definitions of wickedness" of the 10 historians questioned had led to a diverse list.

Oswald Mosley continued to have "a pernicious impact on our society" as an inspiration for far-right groups in the UK, according to Professor Joanna Bourke of London's Birkbeck College.

1900 to 2000: Oswald Mosley
1800 to 1900: Jack the Ripper
1700 to 1800: Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)
1600 to 1700: Titus Oates
1500 to 1600: Sir Richard Rich (Lord Rich of Leighs)
1400 to 1500: Thomas Arundel (1353-1414)
1300 to 1400: Hugh Despenser (The Younger)
(died 1326)
1200 to 1300: King John
1100 to 1200: Thomas Becket
Archbishop of Canterbury
1000 to 1100: Eadric Streona
(died 1017)

"On his death in 1980, his son Nicholas concluded that his father was a man whose 'right hand dealt with grandiose ideas and glory' while his left hand 'let the rat out of the sewer'."

The "greedy" Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was nominated by Professor John Hudson, of St Andrews University, as the 12th century's worst villain.

"He divided England in a way that even many churchmen who shared some of his views thought unnecessary and self-indulgent," he said.

"He was a founder of gesture politics.

"Those who share my prejudice against Becket may consider his assassination in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December, 1170, a fittingly grisly end."

'Wicked deeds'

Marc Morris, writer and presenter of Channel 4's Castle, described King John, who died in 1216, as "one of the worst Kings in English history".

"John committed some wicked deeds and was a deeply unpleasant person," he said.

"He was untrusting, he would snigger at people while they talked and couldn't resist kicking a man when he was down."

Mr Musgrove said deciding on the worst Britons was "not an easy choice".

"Is it the person who murdered the most citizens or the one who led the country into the most desperate straits of poverty or war, or perhaps just he who trod most unscrupulously on those around him?" he said.

"We left the criteria up to the 10 historians we spoke to, and it's their definitions of wickedness that give us such a diverse selection of figures on our list of evilness."

Mosley was tracked by MI5
28 Nov 02 |  UK News


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