Worst ever Briton’s – updated
A list of the 10 worst Britons of the last 1,000 years was put together by historians for BBC History Magazine.
The historians chose one villain from each of the last 10 centuries from the eleventh to twentieth centuries. We have updated the information with worst crime data, cause of death and added the ultimate worst Briton of all time by adding in the 21st century, which the historians were unable to do when they put this list together over a decade ago.
1000-1100: Eadric Streona (died 1017)
King Aethelred II’s chief counsellor betrayed his country by switching sides when the Danish king Cnut invaded England in 1015. He divided England by quarrelling with King Henry II over the rights of the church. He was assassinated by four knights from Henry’s court in Canterbury Cathedral.
Crimes: Eadric organised the killings of prominent nobles for his own ends and looted churches and their funds for personal gain.
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Death: Assassinated by four knights from Henry’s court in Canterbury Cathedral.
1200-1300: King John (1167-1216)
Captured and apparently murdered his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, who was his rival for the throne after the death of Richard the Lionheart in 1199. Known to be spiteful and cruel.
Crimes: Lost Normandy to the French, increased taxation to fight wars that he mostly lost.
Death: Died of Dysentery on the march to the rebel siege at Lincoln.
1300-1400: Hugh Despenser (The Younger) (died 1326)
He became one of the richest men in the kingdom by ruthlessly eliminating his enemies and greedily seizing land in South Wales.
Crimes: Theft, torture, murder, piracy.
Death: Executed as a traitor by way of being partially hanged, gutted but kept alive and then cut into four bits (hung, drawn and quartered).
1400-1500: Thomas Arundel (1353-1414)
Archbishop of Canterbury in 1397 and from 1399 until his death, he persecuted the Lollards, a group calling for reform of the Catholic Church by promoting a lay priesthood and translations of the Bible.
Crimes: Arundel played a prominent part in usurping the King of England and played a major part in laws to condemned certain offenders to be burned alive “in an high place” before the people.
Death: Stroke, then died of natural causes.
1500-1600: Sir Richard Rich, Lord Rich of Leighs (1496/7-1567)
Throughout his life he shifted his political and religious allegiances to further his career. During Henry VIII’s reign he gave evidence against Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher which helped to convict them of treason, for which they were executed.
Crimes: Hated the church, persecutor, torturer, immorality, financial dishonesty, double dealing, perjury and treachery that is seldom matched in all of English history
Died: Natural causes
1600-1700: Titus Oates (1649-1705)
Also known as Titus The Liar. By falsely claiming to have a degree from university, he gained a licence to preach from the bishop of London. Accused a schoolmaster in Hastings of sodomy with one of his pupils, hoping to get the schoolmaster’s post. Oates visited Tangier with a British Navy ship, but was soon accused of buggery which was a capital offence and spared only because of his clergyman’s status.
Crimes: In 1678 he made up a story about a Catholic plot to murder King Charles II which led to scores of people being rounded up and several innocent men being executed. He was later convicted of perjury and jailed.
Death: Natural causes, an amazing feat as he was sentenced to life imprisonment and 5 days each year of public humiliation and lashings in public. Pardoned and given a pension.
1700-1800: Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-65)
A younger son of King George II, he was given the nickname “Butcher” for the merciless manner in which he defeated the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 and quelled the Jacobite Rising.
Crimes: Lost to the French, even with help from the Germans. George II remarked “Here is my son who has ruined me and disgraced himself”
Death: Obese, suffered a stroke and died of natural causes.
1800-1900: Jack the Ripper
The name “Jack the Ripper” originated in a letter written by someone claiming to be the murderer that was disseminated in the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax, and may have been written by journalists in an attempt to heighten interest in the story and increase their newspapers’ circulation
Supposedly a serial killer believed to be responsible for the murders of prostitutes in Whitechapel, East London, in the second half of 1888. His identity has never been established.There are many and varied theories about the identity and profession of Jack the Ripper, but authorities are not agreed upon any of them, and the number of named suspects reaches over one hundred.
Crimes: Enjoyed slitting throats of defenceless women prior to removal of their internal organs.
1900-2000: Oswald Mosley (1896-1980)
He was elected as an MP for first the Conservatives and then Labour before becoming disillusioned with mainstream politics and founding the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932. Convinced authoritarianism was the way forward he instituted a corps of black-uniformed paramilitary stewards, nicknamed blackshirts who were involved in violent confrontations, particularly with Communist and Jewish groups.
Crimes: In 1934 even Team Hitler rejected Moseley’s extremism and the British government introduced the Public Order Act as a result of violent marches and protests Moseley organised. Wanted to negotiate peace with Hitler in WW2 but was interned with his wife along with most other fascists. Attracted the Daily Mail as biggest supporter.
Death: Natural causes
2000 – present: Tony Blair
Served as the Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. Did some good things like introduced the National Minimum Wage Act, Human Rights Act, and Freedom of Information Act and a number of other things that would have gone towards a good political legacy but was over-shadowed by the biggest deception that any of the the above characters could have conceived.
Crimes: Lying to parliament, United Nations, NATO and citizens of the UK and America and leading Britain and therefore justifying USA’s attack and illegal war with Iraq, resulting in millions of deaths. Backed the ‘war on terror’ which instigated the rise of Islamic State and acts of terrorism across the Middle east, Africa and Europe. Failed in every way possible as Middle East Peace Envoy to achieve anything except enrich himself personally whilst the region descended into further conflict largely as a direct result of his actions. The most reviled former prime minister since 1945 and as time will prove, quite possibly in all of British history as continuing hostilities causes widespread movement of people that is destabilising the European Union. Allowed war crimes and internationally recognised illegality such as extraordinary rendition leading to torture, false imprisonment and death.
It goes without saying that the crimes of Tony Blair eclipses those of the aforementioned in terms of the effects on human lives and therefore reaches the Number One slot for Worst Ever Briton. It is possible that such an accolade may never be won by a Briton for centuries to come. Hopefully.