6.3 People

Births, marriages & deaths: The systematic registering by the government of hatchings, matchings & despatchings started first in the world in England & Wales in 1837 (Scotland, 1855, Ireland, 1864), via a system of vigilant local Registrars; legal compulsion to report births, marriages & deaths to the Registrars followed in 1875

British women of renown
Selected by Lorna Taylor of The National CV Group

Britain has the greatest tradition of celebrated ladies of any country

Queen Gwendolen: c1000 BC; wife of King Locrinus; he left her for another woman and she defeated him in battle taking the throne for herself; she ruled for a peaceful 15 years, her son by Locrinus succeeding [Sources: Tysilio & Holinshed]

Queen Cordelia: c800 BC; youngest daughter of King Leir, as in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’; after the King was exiled Cordelia raised an army, recovering his throne for him; following Leir's death she herself ruled Britain for 5 years [Sources: Tysilio & Holinshed]

Queen Marcia: c360 BC; wrote down a legal code that was adopted by Alfred the Great in the AD 800s as the Mercian Code, without his realising that it was in reality the ‘Marcian Code’ [Sources: Tysilio & Holinshed]

Claudia: British wife of a high official in Rome: Claudia’s praises were sung by the 1st century Roman poet Martial, who wrote “Blue-eyed Claudia! Rose of the Britons! Capturer of Hearts!”; Claudia was thus the original English Rose; she was daughter of Caractacus, the British resistance leader in the decade after Roman invasion of AD 43, who had been captured and taken with his family to Rome; Claudia’s brother was Prince Linus, who became the first Bishop of Rome, i.e. the first Pope before the term was used; Linus and Claudia are mentioned in the New Testament, in 2 Timothy 4:21 [see Caractacus, Linus, More 11]

Queen Boudicca: of the Iceni people who around AD 60 attempted to eject the Romans from Britain [see Boudicca]

Queen Empress St Helen of the Cross: AD 248–330; daughter of King Coel II, wife of Roman Emperor Constantius Chlorus, mother of Constantine the Great, the last-mentioned being the first Christian Roman Emperor [see Helen]

Abbess Hilda of Whitby: c614–680; Christian saint and the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, which was the venue of the Synod of Whitby; the Venerable Bede described her as “one of the greatest women of all time” [see Bede]

‘John VIII, Anglicus’: a Pope in the Middle Ages who is said to have been a woman [see Pope Joan]

Queen Æthelflæd: c870–918; the eldest daughter of King Alfred the Great of Wessex, she succeeded to Mercian power upon the death of her husband Aethelred in 911, to become the “Lady of the Mercians”; she was a skilled military leader and tactician, who defended Mercia against external threats for eight years

Godiva, Lady: c997–1067;  rode naked through the streets of Coventry to protest at the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband [See Lady Godiva]

Princess Gwenllian: daughter of the King of Gwynedd; died in 1136 leading an army, Boudicea style, against the invading Normans

Queen St Margaret of Scotland: c1045–93; a gracious beauty who civilized a king, Malcolm III, King of the Scots, and his kingdom

Empress Matilda: c1102–67; the daughter of King Henry I of England, she was the last of the paternal line of her grandfather William the Conqueror; Matilda became the first female ruler of the Kingdom of England

Margaret of Anjou: 1430–82; wife of the mentally troubled Henry VI; Margaret emerged as the de facto leader of the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses; she introduced conscription, mobilised armies and won several battles before falling to defeat by the Yorkists

Catherine of Aragon: 1485–1536; first wife of Henry VIII; Catherine was Queen Regent, Governor of the Realm and Captain General of the King's Forces from 30 June 1513 – 22 October 1513 when Henry VIII was fighting a war in France; Catherine was also the first known woman golfer 

Bess of Hardwick: 1507-1608; rose through four marriages to become the richest common woman in Elizabethan England

Anne Askew: 1520–46; Protestant preacher and poet burnt at the stake in 1546 during the reign of Henry VIII; she is the only woman on record who was tortured in the Tower of London

Queen Elizabeth I: 1533–1603; daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn; her reign (1558-1604) was notable for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (1587; see next entry), defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), domestic prosperity, religious tolerance and literary achievement [see Elizabeth I]

Mary Queen of Scots: 1542–87; mother of the future James VI of Scotland, who united the crown of Scotland and England as James I; Mary’s taste in men was notoriously dubious

Aphra Behn: 1640–89; the first published woman writer in English; also one of the first women in the world to earn a living from authorship

'The first woman playwright was Mrs. Aphra Behn...whose Forc'd Marriage: or, the Jealous Bridegroom ran for six days at the Duke's Theatre, Lincoln's Inn Fields, debuting on 20 September 1670.' [Source: Robertson]

Eleanor ‘Nell’ Gwyn: 1650–87; the long-time mistress of King Charles II of England, from 1668; she embodied the ebullient spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella [see Charles II]

Good Queen Anne: 1665–1714; ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on the death of William III in 1702; in 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain [see Anne]

Mary Astell: 1666–1731; writer and rhetorician; her advocacy of equal educational opportunities for women has earned her the title ‘the first English feminist’

Mary Read & Anne Bonny: Mary Read  died 1721; Anne Bonny's dates are 1702-82; these are the only two women known to have been convicted of piracy during the early 18th century, at the height of the infamous Age of Piracy; their theatre of operations was the Caribbean

Flora MacDonald: 1722–90; lived on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides; in 1746 she helped to save the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Risings

Angelika Kauffman & Mary Moser: Kaufman (1741-1807) and Moser (1744-1819) helped found the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1768; a portrait of the founders shows only the man gathered in a studio; the women have separate portraits

Mary Wollstonecraft: 1759-97; writer and advocate for women's equality; her best known work is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Jane Austen: 1775–1817;  novelist whose works of romantic fiction, have earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature; her realism and insightful social commentary cement her historical importance for scholars and critics, while her rich understanding and wit commend themselves to readers

Hester Stanhope: 1776-1839; intrepid woman traveller in a man’s world, Lady Hester Stanhope set herself up as a local potentate among the arabs of the eastern Mediterranean, mainly through incredible force of personality

Elizabeth Fry: 1780–1845; prison reformer, social reformer and Christian philanthropist; Fry was a major driving force behind legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane; since 2001, she has been depicted on the Bank of England £5 note

Harriet Martineau: 1802–76; social theorist and Whig writer often cited as the first female sociologist. She changed sociological opinions on issues previously ignored, such as marriage, children, domestic and religious life, and race relations

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 1806–61; one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era; her poem ‘The Cry of the Children’ (1842)  helped bring about child labour reforms by rousing support for Lord Shaftesbury's Ten Hours Bill (1844)

Grace Darling: 1815–42; first female lighthouse keeper; in 1838 she and her father saved 13 people from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire [see For those in peril on the sea]

George Eliot: pen name of Mary Anne Evans (1819–1880), one of the leading writers of the Victorian era; she authored seven novels, characterised by social realism and psychological insight

Queen Victoria: 1819–1901; British queen who gave her name to a world age [see Victoria]

Florence Nightingale: 1820–1910; founder of modern nursing and pioneering advocate of evidence-based medicine via the use of statistics [see Hospitals & Nursing]; campaigner for better public sanitation; in 1907 she became the first woman to be appointed to the Order of Merit (the Order is Britain's highest honour; at any one time there are 24 living members); Florence Nightingale was the embodiment a no-nonsense version of tender loving care

Gertrude Margaret Bell: 1828-1926; redrew the map of Mesopotamia forming the country we now recognise today as Iraq, working closely with Lawrence of Arabia [see Lawrence of Arabia]; Bell established the British Archaeological Museum in Iraq

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: 1836–1917; physician and feminist, she was the first woman to gain a medical qualification in Britain and England’s first female mayor

Isabella Mary Beeton: 1836–65; the author of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861); this work emphasises the importance of animal welfare and the use of local and seasonal produce, long before such concerns became mainstream; Mrs Beeton’s pioneering recipe format is still used today [see Cookery advice]

Mary Mitchell Slessor: 1848-1915; a Scottish missionary to Nigeria; her aim was to spread Christianity and promote women’s rights; Slessor successfully fought against the superstitious killing of twins at infancy and was a founder of the Hope Waddell Training Institute in Calabar; she is commemorated today on Scottish banknotes

Beatrice Webb: 1858–1943; pioneer socialist

Mary Henrietta Kingsley: 1862–1900; writer and explorer who greatly influenced European ideas about Africa and African people; various reform associations were formed in her honour and helped facilitate government reform

Evangeline Booth: 1865–1950; Booth was the 4th General of the Salvation Army from 1934 to 1939 and its first woman head

Helen Beatrix Potter: 1866–1943; author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and country life [see Great children’s writers]

Brontё Sisters: a trio of sibling poets and novelists, 1816-55; Charlotte's Jane Eyre was the first to enjoy success, with Emily's Wuthering Heights, Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and other works by the sisters going on to be accepted as masterpieces of world literature

Marion Wallace Dunlop: 1864–1942; in July 1909 she became the first imprisoned suffragette (i.e. campaigner for women’s suffrage, ‘Votes for Women’) to go on hunger strike in prison

Edith Cavell: 1865-1915; British nurse executed by a German firing squad during the First World War; a matron in a Red Cross hospital in Brussels, Cavell had given succour to stranded Allied soldiers and helped them escape across the border to neutral Holland after the German occupation of Belgium; her execution turned her into a national heroine back home; when the chaplain arrived the evening before she was shot, a German guard told him she was a fine woman, “like this”, he said, stiffening his back; Edith Cavell’s last words to that chaplain were, “Standing, as I do, in the view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

Countess de Markievicz: 1868–1927; the first woman to be elected to Parliament but she did not take her seat

Emily Wilding Davison: 1872–1913;  suffragette who died under the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913, a martyr to the cause of women’s suffrage

Margaret Bondfield: 1873–1953; the first woman to hold a ministerial position in a British government, as Parliamentary Secretary; she was promoted by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald in 1929, becoming Minister for Labour; this made her the first female member of the cabinet

Nancy Astor: 1879–1964; the first woman to take a seat in Parliament

Marie Stopes: 1880–1958; opened the UK's first family planning clinic on 17 March 1921

The Pankhursts: Emmeline (1858-1928), Christabel (1880-1958) & Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) were leading suffragettes in the early 20th century; Emmeline died on the day in 1928 that British women gained the right to vote

Dorothy Gladys Smith: 1896–1990; best known for her novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1956); her other works include I Capture the Castle and The Starlight Barking

Dora Black: Lady Russell (1894–1986), wife of Bertrand Russell the philosopher, was an author, feminist and socialist campaigner; in 1924 she campaigned passionately for birth control, joining with H. G. Wells & John Maynard Keynes in founding the Workers' Birth Control Group

Edith Clara Summerskill: 1901–80; physician, feminist, Labour politician and writer; in 1938 she initiated the Married Women's Association to promote equality in marriage; she was one of the founders of the Socialist Health Association which spearheaded the National Health Service (1948) and pressed for equal rights for women in the British Home Guard during the Second World War

Beryl Markham: 1902–86; pioneer aviator, adventurer and racehorse trainer; Markham was the first woman to cross the Atlantic east-to-west solo and the first person to make it from England to North America non-stop

Barbara Hepworth: 1903–75; sculptor; her work exemplifies Modernism and with such contemporaries as Ivon Hitchens, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson & Naum Gabo she helped to develop modern art in Britain, sculpture in particular

Amy Johnson: 1903–41; pioneer aviator who flew solo or with her husband, Jim Mollison; Johnson set numerous long-distance records during the 1930s; she also flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary, dying on an plane delivery assignment

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin: 1910–94; won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 ‘for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances’

Barbara Mary Ward: 1914–81; was a British economist and writer interested in the problems of developing countries. She was an early advocate of sustainable development, which is now playing an increasingly important role in society. She was also well-known as a journalist, lecturer and broadcaster

Margaret Thatcher: b1925; first British female prime minister and longest serving British prime minister of the 20th Century

Bletchley Park's women workers: 2/3rds of the workforce were women at the legendary code-breaking installation in the Second World War, numbering about 6,000 in all

Lilian Rolfe: in May 1944 during the Second World War Rolfe was parachuted into German-occupied France, where she transmitted coded messages between the French Resistance forces and the London headquarters of the Special Operations Executive; she was captured by the Gestapo and shot, together with fellow SOE heroines Denise Bloch & Violette Szabo; Rolfe was awarded a posthumous Croix de Guerre

Queen Elizabeth II: b1926; current sovereign and Head of the Commonwealth; the queen is a member of the oldest surviving royal house and is the world's most famous monarch [see Elizabeth II]

Dame Julie Andrews: b1935; film and stage actress, singer and author; recipient of many prizes including Golden Globe, Emmy, Grammy, BAFTA, People's Choice Award, Theatre World Award, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award; her most famous roles include starring in Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965)

Dame Anita Roddick: 1942–2007; businesswoman, human rights activist and environmental campaigner; best known for founding The Body Shop, a cosmetics company embodying ethical consumerism

Princess Diana: 1961–97; first wife of Prince Charles, son and heir of Elizabeth II; patroness of charities and organisations working with the homeless, young people, drug addicts, AIDS victims and the elderly; Diana supported many causes outside the traditional royal charitable sphere; she lent highly visible support to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a campaign which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, shortly after she died

Helen Sharman: b1963; became in 1991 became the first Briton in space

Women priests: in 1994 the Church of England ordained women for the first time; in a ceremony at Bristol Cathedral 32 women entered the priesthood

[see Britannia]

Famous romances

Helen & Constantius Chlorus: British Princess & Roman General (later Emperor) who married in AD 274; Constantius Chlorus brought an army to bring Britain back into the imperial fold, but there was no battle; a deal was done with Helen's father [see Coel II] and Constantius went on to marry one of the most distinguished ladies in all of British history [see Helen]

‘...Constantius Chlorus, and his most admired consort and chaste Spouse St. Helena...the sole daughter and heir of the Noble Brittish King Coel...whose Daughter Helen (to whom for beauty, and loveliness, knowledge in the liberal sciences, and rare skill in musick, Brittain never bred the like) Constantius took to wife, by whom he begat Constantine [the Great], who not only succeeded his Father in the Kingdom of Brittain, but also (prevailing against Maxentius) in the Empire.’ [Source: Enderbie, pp165 & 167]

Elizabeth I & Robert Dudley: Gloriana was smitten but not sufficiently to succumb to the Earl of Leicester [see Elizabeth I]

Emma Hamilton & Horatio Nelson: on the eve of his final fateful battle at Trafalgar, Nelson penned a letter, which was to be unfinished, beginning ‘My dearest beloved Emma the dear friend of my bosom the signal has been made the enemy’s combined fleet are coming out of port…’

John Constable & Maria Bicknell: a painter and his lass

Elizabeth Barrett & Robert Browning: two poets making a couplet

Victoria & Albert: a British queen and her German Prince Consort [see Victoria]

Wills & Kate: present-day royals [see Press release 1]


Michael Scotus: 1175-c1232; Scotus means ‘the Scot’; he was court astrologer to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, 1194-1250; Michael Scotus foresaw his own death from a falling stone, so he wore a self-designed helmet to thwart fate; he only removed the helmet during church mass – when a stone fell from the dome ceiling, killing him

William Price: 1800-93; a renowned Druid, Price was sartorially bizarre (e.g. he wore a fox-skin headdress) and, medically qualified, he would attend his patients so attired; Price was the pioneer of cremation in Britain; his

'...veneration of the old Welsh Druids was so extreme that he once declared (in a letter signed Lord of South Wales): 'All the Greek books are the works of the Primitive Bards, in our own language!!!!!' and 'Homer was born in the hamlet of E Van near Caerphilli and built Caerphilli Castle.' (John Michell, Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions, 1984)

He sired many children, including, when he was 90, a boy whom he named Iesu Grist (Jesus Christ in Welsh)

D D Home: 1833-86; one of history’s most remarkable psychics; an apparent levitator; he was never exposed as a fraud

'Soon after his return from Africa [Francis] Galton became interested in spiritualism, attended some seances and was impressed when the medium addressed him in the style and language of a chief of the Damaras, a tribe with whom Galton had had many dealings during his travels. He was the only European who spoke Damara, so the medium must either have been transmitting a genuine message from a deceased member of the tribe or reading Galton's mind. He returned to the subject in the 1870s, when the spiritualist craze was at its height, and witnessed performances of apparent miracles by D. D. Hume and other famous mediums at meetings arranged by Sir William Crookes, the scientist who incurred the mockery of his colleagues by his brave stand for fair investigation of spirit phenomenon...Hume was never exposed, but his reputation and that of Crookes were slandered away, and Galton joined his peers in setting his face against the world of spirits.' (John Michell, Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions, 1984)

'Miss Nichol':

'...the famous medium, Miss Nichol, later Mrs Samuel Guppy. She became best known for a performance in 1871, the so-called Transit of Venus, when she levitated from her rooms in Highgate and was teleported to a house three miles away where a spiritualist group was in session. Her sudden descent into the midst of the gathering made a strong impression, for she weighed 17 stone (240 pounds).' (John Michell, Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions, 1984)

Resident & visiting aliens

Christopher Columbus: spent time in Bristol, perhaps learning there of early explorations westward


Prince Metternich

Guiseppi Mazzini




Karl Marx: with Freidrich Engels, another expatriot Rhinelander, he wrote The Communist Manifesto, 1848; Marx’s monumental work was Das Kapital, 1867; Marx’s works were not censored in Tsarist Russia because they were deemed too boring; Marx championed downtrodden workers against the forces of privilege and was the self-proclaimed gravedigger of capitalism, favouring common ownership instead; in Thomas More’s fictional Utopia of 1516 land was held in common; the Diggers in the English Civil War held the same belief, an early form of communism; the moral weight of Marx’s criticisms of 19th century capitalism even won him praise from the apostle of Western liberalism, Karl Popper, 1902-94; 36 countries have so far adopted communism at one time or another, to their discomfort and impoverishment, with many millions of lives lost in Marxist revolutionary struggles, ruling party purges and collectivist economic disasters; Marx, a negatively influential islander by adoption, spawned a global ideology, which is regarded as having been defeated by the free West with victory in the Cold War in 1989, which year saw the fall of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Berlin Wall; yet into the 21st century in China, Marx’s ideas still hold sway in some measure;

'Since 1978 China has liberated more people from poverty than any other country in history, partly because China before 1978 consigned more people to poverty than anywhere else in history.' (The Economist, 3 December 2011)

At the root of Marx’s thinking was the need to be decent to one’s fellow man and share more equally; because of this it is sometimes said that in an ideal world we would all be communists; yet this is to misunderstand that communism is about control and thus violates the human right to liberty, quite apart from violating the other two fundamental rights as well, to property and life; welfare capitalism has been the West’s answer to communism, meaning free markets with a dash of socialism; the political Left is infamous for living for meetings that the rest of humanity avoids like the plague; the crucial objection to socialism, Oscar Wilde quipped, was that it took up too many evenings; India took most of the second half of the twentieth century and a number of years after that to shake off Fabian socialism, acquired from Britain

Lenin: 1917-24; Vladimir Illich Ulyanov; Russian revolutionary

G B Shaw: thought that the professions were conspiracies against the laity; said that if doctors were given a pecuniary interest in amputation the world would be full of amputees

Oscar Wilde

Henry James

Sigmund Freud: fled the Nazis, finding refuge in London; unconscious mind and psychoanalysis

T S Eliot

[For the other kind of alien, see UFO]

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