Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Jayne Evans
"Enormous rewards"
 real 28k

Sunday, 26 March, 2000, 05:51 GMT
Warlord tops richest ever list
Bayeux Tapestry
Norman Conquest: Allies were rewarded with vast riches
An obscure Norman nobleman who made his fortune after the Battle of Hastings has been named as the richest Briton of the last millennium.

William of Warenne, Earl of Surrey, was rewarded for his bravery in the Norman conquest by his distant cousin William the Conqueror.

He was given lands and estates valued at more than 57bn in today's terms.

Thomas Becket
Becket: Untimely death did not stop him amassing 19.2bn fortune
That means he tops the Sunday Times newspaper's Richest of the Rich list - coming in higher than Microsoft boss Bill Gates, the richest living person in the world, who is currently worth 53.1bn.

The top half of the list, showing the richest 200 people in Britain since 1066, is dominated by early and medieval figures.

Enormous rewards

Three of the top four on the list came to England with William the Conqueror.

It reveals the enormous rewards he handed out to his allies for the part they played in the 1066 invasion.

Great 19th century industrialists and landowners also appear high up in the list, which excludes reigning monarchs.

Only four women feature on the list - the richest being Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) who was worth 7.8bn, placing her equal 45th.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, amassed a fortune which would amount to 19.2bn today.

Richard Branson
Branson: Knocked into 168th place with a paltry 2.4bn
Becket, who was born in 1118 and became a close confidant of Henry II, comes 10th on the list.

Clerics feature prominently, with 18 making the final cut, including Cardinal Thomas Wolsey - equal 38th on 8.6bn and William the Conqueror's half-brother Odo of Bayeux, who finishes equal fourth with 43.2bn.

The Sunday Times calculated its figures by taking a person's peak wealth as a proportion of the net national income of their country at the time, and expressing it as a percentage of Britain's gross domestic product for 1999.

Only six entrants on the list are still alive. Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson, who came third in the original Sunday Times Rich List, comes just 168th with 2.4bn.

Philip Beresford, who compiled the list, said: "Probably, the most striking fact revealed by the Richest of the Rich list is just how few people made their fortunes since the industrial revolution, let alone since the Second World War.

"Indeed there are only 11 20th century entries in the list."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

10 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Spices dominate rich list
16 Mar 00 | e-cyclopedia
The Rich lists: Who really cares?
11 Jan 00 | Wales
Charlotte joins top 10 earners
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories