BBC World to showcase special on Great Britons

MUMBAI: Churchill, Shakespeare, Princess Di! Who was the greatest Brit of them all? Well, Indian viewers will get to find out later in the year when BBC World showcases its ten one hour episode show Great Britons.

The charismatic World War II British premier Winston Churchill came out on top. The decision was made last November. The beeb conducted a UK poll which attracted over a million votes. Churchill gained 447,423 votes, beating his nearest rival, engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, by more than 56,000 votes.

The Top 100 names were revealed in August, followed by a vote for the greatest of the Top Ten in October. Besides Churchill on BBC World viewers can expect to see profiles of Diana, Princess of Wales; Charles Darwin; William Shakespeare; John Lennon; Elizabeth I; Sir Isaac Newton; Viscount Horatio Nelson; and Oliver Cromwell. Prior to announcing the top ten the beeb had announced its top 100. Football icon David Beckham came in at number 33.

The BBC's definition of a Great Briton was "anyone who was born in the British Isles, including Ireland, or who has lived in the British Isles, including Ireland, and has played a significant part in the life of the British Isles".

Beckham apparently threw his weight behind Churchill saying, "He was a giant of a leader at a time when Britain needed hope and inspiration." Brits voted through telephone or email. While Diana had a reasonable shot for a while disclosures about her private life after the infamous trial of butler Paul Burrell hurt her chances.

It can't have helped that the host of game show The Weakest Link Anne Robinson who also hosted a show on BBC 2 which was based on the poll results was extremely vocal about the fact that voting for Diana even in the top ten was absurd. In October Robinson had been quoted in The Telegraph saying, ""To regard her as a great Briton seems to be absurd. It's interesting how easily she manipulated public opinion."

As far as the top 100 was concerned it is worth noting that only 22 people are still alive. Film stars are conspicuous by their absence and the only television presenter is David Attenborough. Poetry was also given the short shrift as noted by the absence of Keats, Yeats, Wordsworth and Byron. Other notable absentees from the top 100 included Laurence Olivier, Emily Bronte. Writers represented include JK Rowling and JR Tolkien.

The vote break up was as follows

Name Number of votes (per cent)
Churchill 456,498 (28.1)
Brunel 398,526 (24.6)
Diana 225,584 (13.9)
Darwin 112,496 (6.9)
Shakespeare 109,919 (6.8)
Newton 84,628 (5.2)
Elizabeth I 71,928 (4.4)
Lennon 68,445 (4.2)
Nelson 49,171 (3)
Cromwell 45,053 (2.8)


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