Somehow, comments on my last post regarding Catholics riding the neo-Gnostic wave turned into a discussion of the greatest Englishmen ever (it was via Celtic spirituality, actually). So, history buffs and Anglophiles, what do you think? Here's my list of the 10 greatest Englishmen ever:
1. King Alfred the Great, 849-899, king and founder of the English nation.
(King Alfred's statue at his burial place, Winchester is pictured).
2. Winston Churchill, 1874-1965, soldier, statesman, historian and wordsmith.
3. King Athelstan of Wessex, +939, soldier, 1st truly national king of England, consolidator of laws.
4. King Edward III, 1312-1377, soldier, king for 50 years, laid foundations for English military and economic supremacy in the centuires that followed.
5. Oliver Cromwell, 1599-1658, soldier, Lord Protector, founder of the British Empire (?), a difficult one, since he can also be held responsible for regicide and attempted genocide, but the impact of his 'reign' determined much that followed.
6. Boniface, 672-754, Churchman, Apostle to the Germans, Martyr.
7. Thomas Cranmer, 1489-1556, Churchman, Primate, King's counsellor, author/editor of the Book of Common Prayer, martyr, crafter of the English language.
8. Shakespeare 1564-1616, Poet and dramatist, definitive English stylist, England's national poet, crafter of the English language.
9. Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, poet, essayist, pioneer lexicographer, crafter of the English language.
10. Bede, 672-735, churchman, monk and chronicler of early England's history, which was inseparably bound up with the church.
It might be helpful if I define 'greatness': I regard it as stature which is the result of a figure's contribution to forming or defending the English nation and character or accomplishing feats which had a defining impact on subsequent history beyond the borders of England (Boniface). It does not necessarily imply moral greatness, although strength of character is certainly a factor here.
Now, here's where it gets really interesting, who makes up the next 10? And if we included women, who would we list? (It's noy misogyny that explains their absence, I assure you, but the fact that it is a list of Englishmen). 5 women probably come to mind quite easily, but after that?