History Hot 100 results: the historical figures who fascinated you most in 2017

We asked readers and historians to vote for the historical figures that most interest them at the moment. The results are in: this is the History Hot 100 for 2017

Illustrations: Andy Tuohy / Design: Rachel Dickens
Welcome to this year’s BBC History Magazine Hot 100 list, featuring the historical figures that have been fascinating you in 2017. We asked you to each nominate up to three people, who could have lived in any historical period (but who died more than 30 years ago). The full list is presented here, along with comments on the results from historians. The characters and rankings are bound to provoke controversy…
(*denotes new entry in 2017)

100 Isambard Kingdom Brunel

British civil and mechanical engineer
99 Francis Drake
English admiral and navigator
98 Christopher Columbus
Italian explorer and navigator
97 Catherine Howard 
Fifth wife of Henry VIII
96 Anne Neville
Queen consort of Richard III
95 Simon de Montfort
Rebel baron
94 Nikola Tesla
Serbian-American inventor
93 Isabella of France
Queen consort of Edward II
92 Margaret Tudor 
Daughter of Henry VII, sister of Henry VIII
91 King Arthur
 possibly sixth century*
Legendary British warrior and king
90 Cecily Neville
Mother of Edward IV and Richard III
89 Richard I
English king, known as ‘the Lionheart’
88 Thomas More
Tudor statesman and author
87 Thomas Jefferson
Founding Father and third US president
86 Marie Curie
Polish-French physicist and chemist
85 Hatshepsut
 c1507 BC–c1458 BC*
Pharoah copy
One of only a few known ancient Egyptian female pharaohs, Hatshepsut reigned in her own right, from c1473–58 BC. However, Hatshepsut’s royal reign really began in c1479 BC when she acted as regent for her infant stepson, Thutmose III. By the end of his seventh regnal year, Hatshepsut had been crowned king and had adopted all pharaonic titles and regalia, co-ruling with her stepson. In images, she was depicted with a male body wearing the traditional pharaonic kilt, crown and false beard. New entry in 2017
84 Harold II

England’s last Anglo-Saxon king
Italian noblewoman and queen of France
82 Bess of Hardwick
Elizabethan noblewoman
81 Anne Frank
German-born Jewish diarist
80 Muhammad
Prophet and founder of Islam
79 John of Gaunt
Third surviving son of Edward III
78 Isabella I of Castile
Queen of Castile and Aragon
77 George Washington
Founding father and first US president
76 Anne of Cleves
German-born fourth wife of Henry VIII
75 Florence Nightingale
Founder of modern nursing
74 Owain Glyndwr
Welsh ruler and rebel
73 Marie Antoinette 1755–93*
Austrian-born queen of France
72 Katherine Parr
Sixth and last wife of Henry VIII
71 Vlad the Impaler
Prince of Wallachia, Romania
70 Leonardo da Vinci
Italian Renaissance polymath
69 Edward III
King of England
68 Charles I
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
67 Charles Dickens
British writer and social critic
66 Katherine Swynford
Third wife of John of Gaunt
65 Albert Einstein
German-born theoretical physicist
64 Cleopatra
 69 BC–30 BC*
Last active pharaoh of ancient Egypt
63 Alan Turing
Computer scientist and cryptanalyst
62 Tsar Nicholas II
Last emperor of Russia
61 Lady Jane Grey
Queen of England for nine days
60 Joseph Goebbels
Propaganda minister for Nazi Germany
59 Franklin D Roosevelt
32nd US president
58 Charles Darwin
British naturalist, geologist and biologist
57 King John
King of England who sealed Magna Carta
56 Clement Attlee
British prime minister
55 Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton came to the attention of George Washington during the American Revolutionary War, becoming the general’s aide-de-camp. After training as a lawyer, he was elected to the lower house of the New York legislature and eventually earned himself a place at the Constitutional Convention as representative for New York. Hamilton was consequently one of the founding fathers of the US Constitution, and had a profound influence on its ratification. When Washington was elected to the presidency, he appointed Hamilton the country’s first secretary of the treasury.
 Down 40 places from 2016
54 1st Duke of Wellington
British prime minister and military leader
53 Henry V
King of England and victor at Agincourt
52 Francisco Franco
Military dictator of Spain
51 Æthelflæd
 Anglo-Saxon ruler of Mercia
50 Mahatma Gandhi
Ghandi copy
Born to a wealthy Hindu family in north-west India, Gandhi’s first experiences of nonviolent civil disobedience came while he was practising law in South Africa, in response to the Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. In around 1921 he became leader of the Indian National Congress, leading campaigns for a number of social causes and to end British rule in India. One of his most famous protests was the 240-mile Dandi Salt March of 1930, challenging the British-imposed salt tax. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. 
Non-mover from 2016
49 Catherine the Great
Catherine Great_Inside_Sloped Shoulders
The daughter of a minor German prince, Catherine (born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst) became a member of Russian royalty following her marriage to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the Russian throne. Catherine overthrew her husband shortly after he became tsar in 1762, and was declared empress, a title she would hold for more than 30 years. Expanding the empire was her priority: territories gained during her reign include Crimea, Belarus and Lithuania. She was also a great patron of the arts and education.
 Down 19 places from 2016
48 Charles II
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
47 Louis XIV
French monarch, known as the Sun King
46 Karl Marx
German philosopher and political theorist
45 Edward I
King of England
44 Augustus
 63 BC–14 AD*
Considered the first Roman emperor
43 Julius Caesar
 100 BC–44 BC
Roman ruler, general and statesman
42 John F Kennedy
35th US president
41 Genghis Khan
Founder of the Mongol empire
40 Isaac Newton
Mathematician, astronomer and physicist
39 Henry II
First Plantagenet king of England
38 Oswald Mosley
Leader of the British Union of Fascists
37 Vladimir Lenin 
 Russian communist revolutionary
36 Joan of Arc
French martyr, saint and military leader
35 Martin Luther King
Religious activist and civil rights leader
34 Jane Austen
JANE AUSTIN_Sloped Shoulders copy
This year sees the 200th anniversary of both Jane Austen’s death and the publication of two of her novels: Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Austen’s first known writings date from c1787, with Sense and Sensibility the earliest of her novels to be published in her lifetime, in 1795. Austen, who never married, is celebrated as one of England’s favourite authors: her six novels – all published anonymously at first – are a window into the life of the landed gentry in the 18th and 19th centuries. She is believed to have died of Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder. New entry in 2017
33 Empress Matilda
Claimant to the English throne
32 Catherine of Aragon 
Spanish-born first wife of Henry VIII
31 William the Conqueror
First Norman king of England
30 Abraham Lincoln 
16th US president and opponent of slavery
29 Josef Stalin
Soviet revolutionary and dictator
28 Boudica
Ancient British queen of the Iceni tribe
27 Alexander the Great
 356 BC–323 BC
King of Macedonia
26 Mary I
England’s first queen regnant
25 Horatio Nelson
British naval commander
24 Edward IV
First Yorkist king of England
23 Emmeline Pankhurst
British suffragist and political activist
22 Thomas Cromwell
Born the son of a Putney brewer, Cromwell’s big break came when he landed a job working for Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s powerful first minister. When Wolsey fell from grace after failing to gain papal permission to annul Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Cromwell advised Henry to break with Rome and make himself head of the Church of England, allowing the king to marry Anne Boleyn. Cromwell soon became Henry’s right-hand man but ended up on the scaffold having arranged the king’s disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves.
 Down 14 places from 2016
21 Oliver Cromwell
English soldier and statesman
20 Napoleon Bonaparte
French military and political leader
19 Martin Luther
Martin Luther copy
On 31 October 1517, after witnessing corruption in the Catholic church, German theologian Martin Luther supposedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. In them, he condemned the practice of selling ‘indulgences’ to absolve sin and stated that salvation could be reached by faith, not deeds. Luther was condemned by the Catholic church but his work sparked the Protestant Reformation. 
Up 36 places from 2016
18 Margaret Beaufort
Mother of King Henry VII
17 Elizabeth of York
Queen consort of Henry VII
16 Elizabeth Woodville
Queen consort of Edward IV
15 Jesus Christ
 c6-4 BC–30 AD
Religious leader central to Christianity
14 William Marshal
Anglo-Norman soldier and statesman
13 Benito Mussolini
Italian Fascist dictator
12 Henry VII
First Tudor king of England
11 Mary, Queen of Scots
Scottish queen and French queen consort
10 Henry VIII

King of England
9 William Shakespeare
English poet, playwright and actor
8 Queen Victoria
British queen and empress of India
7 Adolf Hitler
Dictator of Nazi Germany
6 Winston Churchill
British wartime prime minister
5 Anne Boleyn
Boleyn_Inside_Sloped Shoulders
Anne spent much of her childhood at the French court, returning to England in 1522 where she proceeded to dazzle Henry VIII. By 1533, Anne was pregnant with the king’s child and the pair were secretly married. In 1534, Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was finally annulled and Anne was crowned queen. But a series of failed pregnancies combined with accusations of adultery saw Anne sent to the scaffold in 1536.
 Down 1 place from 2016
4 Elizabeth I

Queen of England

3 Alfred the Great 849–899

King of Wessex
2 Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor_Inside_Sloped Shoulders
Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, became one of the most powerful women in Europe when she married Louis, heir 
to Louis VI of France in late July 1137. The French king died the following month and Eleanor became queen of France, a title she would hold for 15 years. An unsuccessful crusade to the Holy Land in 1147–49, combined with Eleanor’s perceived failure to provide Louis with a son, soured the relationship and the couple divorced in 1152. Her second marriage to the future Henry II saw her become queen of England and, later, mother to the future Richard I.
 Up 5 places from 2016 

Holding on to the top spot…

1 Richard III
Richard 3
Interest in the Yorkist king reached fever pitch in 2012 when his remains were found beneath a Leicester car park.
Mystery still surrounds Richard, not least whether he was responsible for the deaths of his nephews – Edward V and his younger brother, Richard – who mysteriously disappeared from the Tower of London in the summer of 1483.
Richard III’s death at the battle of Bosworth heralded the dawn of the Tudor dynasty as Henry Tudor took the throne of England, marrying Richard’s niece, Elizabeth of York. Five monarchs would sit on the throne for more than a century of Tudor rule. Richard III, meanwhile, still continues to divide opinion.

What did the experts say? Click here to read the verdict of 12 leading historians


Want to find out how the list compares to 2016? Read more here…