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The Top 10 English Immigrants

Updated on April 22, 2015
Everyone was prepared to die to claim the completely blue horse
Everyone was prepared to die to claim the completely blue horse

Some politicians are fond of talking about the threat that immigrants pose to our nation.

But how do you define an immigrant? The Oxford English Dictionary defines immigrants as ‘people who come to live permanently in a foreign country.’ That’s a bit vague, and applies to absolutely everybody’s ancestors who all at some point 'came' to England, since modern humans did not evolve in Europe.

So what’s a reasonable cut-off point? For our highly scientific study, we believe a decent classification would be to say that an immigrant is anybody who chose to come and live permanently in England from somewhere else. Or whose parents did. Or one of their parents. Or a grandma they were particularly fond of. You get the idea. Anyone whose family cannot claim to have been fully established in England before 1066 will be considered an immigrant.

With that in mind, here is our list of the top ten best immigrants to England of all time.

10. Winston Churchill

Churchill is beloved by the English for ensuring victory during World War Two, and for his great speeches and quips.

Churchill's mother was Lady Randolph Churchill - her maiden name was Jennie Jerome. She was the daughter of US millionaire Leonard Jerome who was of French ancestry. Churchill's father, the Duke of Marlborough, was from the famous and noble Spencer family. The Spencer family are said to have descended from Baron Hugh le Despencer. We'll let you make your own mind up if that name sounds English.

Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace (we'll let you decide if that sounds English as well). Blenheim palace is a magnificent building designed in the Baroque style, which was copied from Italy. Even his house wasn't English.

Winston le Churchill
Winston le Churchill

9. Arthur Wellesley - The Duke of Wellington

Wellington led the victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He was also twice Prime Minister during his distinguished career.

Wellington was born in Ireland, where his family were from, and spent most of his childhood in Dublin or County Meath. After a spell at Eton he moved with his mother to Brussels. He later studied at the French Royal Academy of Equitation (equitation means messing about on horses), where he learned French and thrived.

With very little to tie Wellington to England and explain why he wanted to lead us in wars against the French, we can only assume that one of the French horses looked at him funny.

One Wellington
One Wellington

8. Andrew Strauss

Cricketer Andrew Strauss presided as England captain over the golden age of English cricket. That means an age in which we didn't lose absolutely all the time. Under Strauss' captaincy, England claimed the ashes from Australia both home and away, and became the number one test team in the world for the first time ever.

Andrew Strauss is one of several (brilliant) current or recent England players born in South Africa. The parents of said players are a mix of nationalities - Strauss' father is South African. Strauss lived in South Africa for the first few years of his life, and when his family decided to leave they spent time in Australia (where Strauss got his first taste of cricket) as well as England.

He has on several occasions during his career allowed balls from South African bowlers to go past his bat and hit the wickets, or hit the ball to a South African catcher. We think that says it all.

'The capital of England is....err just give me a minute I know this..'
'The capital of England is....err just give me a minute I know this..'

7. John Lennon

Beatle John Lennon was born to Alfred Lennon, who was of Irish descent, and Julia Lennon who Alfred described as an "auburn-haired girl with a bright smile and high cheekbones." As everybody knows, people with red hair only come from Ireland or Scotland, so she probably wasn't of English descent either.

At least John Lennon did what defenders of our stock want immigrants to do and shoved off. He became an immigrant for a second time when he moved to New York, where he spent the last decade of his life, shunning his adopted England. West 42nd Street is in my ears, and in my eyes...

'I've never actually been to Liverpool", Lennon is quoted as saying in 1963.

'We're not going outside because it smells too much like England.'
'We're not going outside because it smells too much like England.'

6. Sherlock Holmes

Detective Sherlock Holmes is made out of paper which probably comes from Brazil.

If we look at the character himself, we can see that even fictional characters we thought were English are actually not.

In one of the Sherlock Holmes stories, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, Holmes says that his great-uncle was the French artist Horace Vernet. It seems European integration is nothing new.

A major inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes character is said to be Joseph Bell, a Scotsman who was friends with the author of the books - Arthur Conan-Doyle. However, Bell disputed this and claimed that Conan-Doyle, also a Scot, was himself the inspiration for the Holmes character. Whichever one of them it was, they successfully smuggled themselves into London by hiding in a book, using a false identity.

Typical stony Scottish demeanour
Typical stony Scottish demeanour

5. Football

'It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming - football's coming home.." sang Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightening Seeds during Euro '96. They must have been mistaken as to where they thought the tournament was being held.

The English are proud of claiming football (soccer) as our own. There is little basis for this however. Both the ancient Greeks and the Romans played many kinds of ball games, some of which involved using feet. Even FIFA don't think football is English. They say that 'cuju' was the original form of football. Cuju was played by the Chinese in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. That was even before Ryan Giggs started playing.

Most of the world, in fact, from Australian Aborigines to Inuit people in Greenland, can claim some early form of soccer that well pre-dates the formation of the English Football Association (F.A) in 1863. Turns out it doesn't take that much to come up with the idea of booting something about for fun.

'Get back to your own country', an angry football fan shouts to a football match
'Get back to your own country', an angry football fan shouts to a football match

4. Dame Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren is one of only two British women ever to have been in a film. She has won an Oscar, and is famous for having played both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Mirren was born Helen Lydia Mironoff. Her father was Vasily Petrovich Mironov. They were so foreign they even changed the spelling of their surname from time to time to deliberately confuse people even more. Helen Mirren's father finally changed the family surname to Mirren in the 1950s.

Helen Mirren is believed to have once delivered an entire performance of a play in Russian 'by mistake' before remembering she was supposed to be English. An audience member is quoted as saying 'we all just thought she was drunk.'

'Yeah - I totally understand English humour too!'
'Yeah - I totally understand English humour too!'

3. Fish and Chips

A lot of the fish we eat in England were not born in England. Either they were smuggled here in boats, or in some cases actually SWAM themselves to reach English shores risking life and death in order to claim housing benefit.

For a lot of fish though, they never get the chance to exploit England's overly generous welfare system. A lot of them end up in a fryer. But at least when they are eaten by hungry English people they do sort of get to become English.

'They don't even try to learn English'
'They don't even try to learn English'

2. Big Ben

Big Ben, which as all Englishmen should know is the bell, not the clock or the tower, is the most famous and iconic landmark in England.

But what's its history? The chief architect on the design of the Palace of Westminster, of which Big Ben is part, was Charles Barry. The clock tower, however, and the clock itself, were designed by Augustus Pugin. Pugin was the son of Augustus Charles Pugin, who was born in Paris to Swiss-French parents.

Pugin Jr.'s favoured architectural style was Gothic Revival, which attempted (as the name suggests) to revive Gothic architecture - which originated in 12th century France.

The name Big Ben is thought to be a tribute to Benjamin Hall, an engineer and politician from Wales.

The tune played by the chimes of Big Ben are a variation on Handel's Messiah, Handel being German-born composer George Frideric Handel.

If the government decides, as UKIP and some Tory backbenchers want, that we are to leave the European Union, then Big Ben might have to apply for a work visa.

He's a big strong lad, we could have stuck him up front for England if he was eligible
He's a big strong lad, we could have stuck him up front for England if he was eligible

1. Queen Elizabeth II

That's right - you guessed it. The all time number one immigrant to England is the Queen of England herself - Elizabeth II.

You don't have to go very far back in history to find non-English bloodlines in the royal family. The Queen's grandfather was George V - his wife was Mary of Teck, a princess of the Kingdom of Wurttemburg, south west Germany, and his mother was the daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. George V was also first cousin to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Queen Elizabeth is related through male lineage to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Albert, her great-great-grandfather, or Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to give him his full title, was born in Saxe-Coburg Saalfield in central Germany to the House of Wettin which ruled parts of Germany for almost a thousand years.

The Queen's husband is Prince Philip - Duke of Edinburgh. He was born in Greece into the Greek and Danish royal families, and into the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. No that name isn't made up to make a point!

Despite all the criticisms of her, the Queen has worked tirelessly on behalf of the British and English people since she was old enough to walk. She should be enough to prove that if we give immigrants a chance they might just pay back our kindness (in case we can't stand the idea that we should give someone a chance for nothing in return).

Here's to all the people of the wonderfully diverse England and the U.K!


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