Top 10 British mothers from history

These famous royals, writers and feminists on our top 10 list all have one thing in common – they’re mothers

1. Diana, Princess of Wales (1 July 1961 –31 August 1997)
Diana, Princess of Wales was known the world over as much for her beauty as for her caring, down-to-earth nature. A campaigner for children’s charities, Diana brought a personal touch to the Royal Family that has endured to this day. Within a year of her marriage to Prince Charles, she gave birth to Prince William – the future king – on 21 June 1982, and Prince Harry was born two years later. Keeping the young princes grounded was always going to be difficult, yet Diana did her best to shield them from publicity and to give them a ‘normal’ upbringing, famously taking them to McDonald’s and Disneyland.

Queen_Victoria_Jubilee/Wikipedia2. Queen Victoria (24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901)
The longest-serving monarch in history (so far) became queen at the age of 18 and in 1840 married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, bearing him nine children. Victoria was physically unassuming but she succeeded in projecting a grand image of a then thriving British empire. This earned her the title ‘grandmother of Europe’. With 42 grandchildren she has descendants across the Continent, including Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh; and the royal families of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Spain. Visitors to the Swiss Cottage, on the Isle of Wight, can discover the importance Victoria placed on family – this was a special place for her and Prince Albert’s children to play and learn.

3. Mrs Beeton (12 March 1836 – 6 February 1865) 
Born Isabella Mayson on 12 March 1836, Beeton wrote the Book of Household Management, one of the most famous cookery books ever published. The oldest of 21 siblings, she was able to develop her abilities in babysitting and general household management, giving her the requisite experience to publish her famous book. Published in 1861 it was an immediate success, and by 1868 it had sold nearly two million copies. As well as recipes the book contained tips on household management, childcare, etiquette, entertaining guests and management of servants. Mrs Beeton’s first two sons died in childhood but she did have two further sons who went on to lead prosperous lives.

4. Anne Boleyn (1501– 19 May 1536)
Anne Boleyn’s sharp wit, political intelligence and forward manners won her plenty of fans, not to mention the heart of King Henry VIII who married her in 1533 and brought about the English Reformation. Anne was the mother to one of the most famous queens in English history, Elizabeth, born in September 1533 who would reign during the golden age of English history. While Henry professed to love Elizabeth, his desire for a son and Anne’s later miscarriages, resulted in her being arrested for witchcraft and adultery. On 19 May 1536 Anne was led from her quarters to Tower Green and executed by a French swordsman. The first English queen to be publicly executed, her final words praising Henry VIII, were seen as proof of her enduring devotion to her king.

5. Marie Stopes (15 October 1880 –2 October 1958)
Less known, perhaps, than other members on our list, Marie was a writer and mother whose influential, if controversial book, Married Love, published in 1918, became a bible for women seeking marital advice. A mother who opposed abortion, Stopes’ second book, Wise Parenthood followed and in 1921, Stopes opened a family planning clinic in Holloway, north London, the first in the country. By 1930, other family planning organisations had been set up around the country, giving rise to what would later become the Family Planning Association.

Christening of Prince George of Cambridge
©John Stillwell/PA Images

6. Catherine, HRH Princess of Wales (born 9 January 1982) 
Even before her marriage to Prince William on 29 April 2011 at Westminster Abbey, HRH Catherine Middleton was one of the most talked-about names on the planet. Not surprisingly, news of her first pregnancy generated rumours as to the child’s gender around the world – the birth of Prince George on 22 July 2013 finally ending speculation that had reached fever pitch. She is now also mother to Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

7. Emmeline Pankhurst (15 July 1858-14 June 1928)
The founder of the Women’s Franchise League in 1889 was an inspiration for women and mothers across the country. In October 1903, she helped establish the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) whose members were nicknamed the ‘suffragettes’. Emmeline’s daughters Christabel and Sylvia were both active in the cause, which both shocked and stoked the attention of the British establishment astonished by the demonstrations that included window smashing, arson and hunger strikes.

8. Mary Shelley (1797-1851)
Born in 1797, Mary was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer and perhaps the world’s first feminist who died days after giving birth to her – the first of many tragedies in Shelley’s life. Shelley’s son, Percy Florence, was the only one of her children to live to adulthood and, after spending time in Switzerland, Shelley was inspired to create her most enduring character, Frankenstein – the Gothic tale of the same name was written in 1818 – who emerged from a dream she had during a writing competition between friends who included the poet Lord Byron.

9. Enid Blyton (11 August 1897-28 November 1968)
Enid Blyton was a surrogate mother to a generation, her Famous Five, Secret Seven and Noddy series of novels enthralling children across the land. The characters from The Famous Five, Julian, Dick, Anne, George (Georgina), and Timothy the dog became household names in Britain. Blyton had two daughters, Gillian and Imogen and was heavily involved in charity work, the largest being with the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.

10. Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother (4 August 1900-30 March 2002)
Queen Elizabeth, wife of George VI, and the current Queen’s mother, is remembered fondly in the hearts of the nation. Her popularity helped to stabalise the monarchy in times of strife, including during the Second World War and following the death of George VI in 1952 and the unexpected ascension of her daughter Elizabeth to the throne at the age of 25. Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother, (played by Helena Bonham Carter in the film The King’s Speech) had a second daughter, Margaret, who she outlived by a month when she died aged 101.

Read more:

William Morris at Kelmscott Manor: Life’s rich tapestry

Top 10 Downton Abbey filming locations

London Terraces: The best restaurants and bars to eat alfresco