Who embodies the nation?

The Sunday Times had an interesting article last week about a survey. Young people were asked: Who embodies Britain?

There are some pretty interesting choices, some obvious ones and some questionable ones. Let’s take a look…

The person who embodies the nation the most is, of course, the Queen. 63% of young people thought she embodied Britain perfectly, followed by the Duke of Cambridge and Richard Branson at 57% and 45%. It really shows how influential the Queen is when her grandson is 6% lower than her in the chart.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

Other notable people on the list are J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry, David Beckham, Mo Farah, Benedict Cumberbatch and DAVID TENNANT! All are great choices, but one person seems to be missing: what about Sir David Attenborough? Surely as the controller of BBC 2 and as someone who has inspired many people to get interested in wildlife and the world, David Attenborough should be on the list.

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This led me to think that if people like David Attenborough aren’t on the list, and young people (18-24) are voting, does that mean that they are voting for people who they knew and grew up with? After all, if an 18 year old voted David Tennant, chances are that as a 10 year old, they saw him as the Doctor in 2006 and therefore have grown up with him.

I was surprised that David Attenborough wasn’t on the list. My prediction was that people just don’t watch or appreciate nature programmes and are more used to people this generation rather than last generation.

But anyway, my list of the people who have embodied Britain are:

1) David Attenborough – Because he’s DAVID ATTENBOROUGH!!!! In all seriousness, David Attenborough is a huge influence on me, as I grew up watching his nature programs, with my dad such as Life on Mammals and Planet Earth. I have seen all of the Life series and many other of his programs.

Embed from Getty Images

2) Stephen Fry –  He’s a great presenter and is an influence on comedy. I love watching his show, QI.

3) Rowan Atkinson – For playing not one, but two, iconic British character, Mr Bean and Blackadder. Blackadder is a smart character who is surrounded by idiots in various historical settings such as Tudor England, Georgian England and World War I. My favourite episode is the pigeon episode, where Blackadder is put on trial for shooting a messenger pigeon.

4) The Queen – She can parachute into an Olympic stadium. That is awesome! (Of course she didn’t really).

5) JK Rowling – For writing a global phenomenon, Harry Potter, which I have read, watched and listened to, with the audio books read by Stephen Fry.

So these five influential people would be on my list as the people who embody Britain today, but there are other people in history I think represent and embody Britain too –

William Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells and Elizabeth I just to name a few.

So who do you think embodies Britain?


10 thoughts on “Who embodies the nation?

  1. How about some legends from the Industrial Revolution – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Telford, Abraham Darby, George Stephenson, Richard Trevethick…

  2. I nominate Sir Tim Berners-Lee who gave us the World Wide Web. Yes, gave us. We don’t have to buy it or rent it. He also insists that it is neutral. Nobody should try to control it, snoop on it or restrict it. You have to admit that WWW has enriched your life more than almost anything else.

  3. I agree with you. WWW has changed our life. My life has been enriched with the freedom to connect with my neighbourhood and the outer world from a small corner in my lounge. Thanks to WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg, I’m able to communicate using his beautiful platform to explore the world via the Internet. It is incredible.

  4. I never knew the name of the creator of the World Wide Web until now, which is embarrassing as I use the Internet a lot to watch videos, write blogs and look up information. Sir Tim Berners-Lee certainly deserves to be here.

  5. I wonder if you think the people who embody the nation are also significant?

    If my question is: Who are the most significant ? Would your answers still be David Attenborough, Stephen Fry,……JK Rowling?

    1. Interesting question. Someone like David Beckham embodies the nation as an iconic sportsperson, but he’s not really significant to Britain. Someone like King John, whose bad decisions created the basis of the modern, democratic government, is significant, but doesn’t really embody the country. So it’s a tough question to answer.

  6. Another nicely written and thought-provoking piece. In the case of embodiment, I am firmly on the side of the dictionary definition (embodiment: a person, being, or thing embodying a spirit, principle, abstraction, etc; incarnation), so the rule has to be “When you think of this person, does the word ‘British’ spring immediately to mind?”

    The queen certainly fits this criteria, which raises another thought – do you have to be born British to embody Britain? For me, the Duke of Edinburgh represents the essence of Britishness even though he is Greek by birth, so I suppose a Time Lord from Gallifrey could fall into the same category. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher also epitomised Britishness, but the same cannot be said for any of our current politicians. Boris Johnson, David Beckham and Mr Bean seem more English than British.

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