A little while back we did a roundup of the greatest living Englishmen of a fictional persuasion. So it only seems right and proper that we should now proudly bestow upon your eyes a collection of the most notable womenfolk. Many were called and few were chosen, but those who remain are a marvel to behold.
5) Miss Marple
Agatha Christie’s master detective might not get many hearts pounding at the sight of her tweed twin-set and wispy hair, but she’ll certainly get the pulses racing of those that she accuses of murdering the countess in the drawing room with a banana. For over 30 cases Jane Marple was able to find the villain that eluded the police thanks to her wit, wiles, and knitting expertise. Or could she possibly have been inventing elaborate lies to frame innocent people while she continued her secret life of St Mary Mead’s first serial killer. A formidable woman, whatever the case.
4) Margo Leadbetter
When the TV series The Good Life was in its prime at the end of the seventies Felicity Kendall’s character Barbara was the one generally thought of as sexy, intelligent, and most admirable of the female stars on the show. Now though we see that the long-suffering Margo Leadbetter, who lived next door to Tom & Barbara and had to deal with the pain of her once respectable neighbours turning their garden into a farm replete with chickens, goats, and constantly escaping pigs, was in fact remarkably resilient. Her class obsessions were probably more accurate than the insanely optimistic Goods, and her brave attempts to keep the sartorial standards of Surbiton up where they belonged was a testament of breeding and stiff-upper-lip determination. In the end she also achieved a quiet allure that even held Tom in its spell at times.
3) Lara Croft
If there’s something that represents the age-old nature of the English then it’s rampaging through foreign countries stealing their priceless treasures and bringing them home to Blighty. One figure has done more to promote this than any other in modern culture, all while hiding the fact deftly behind inappropriate adventuring attire and a physics defying chest. Lady Croft has become an icon the world over for derring-do, beauty, and pushing large blocks around. She’s also about to reappear in a new guise, showing that a real lady can reinvent her style but keep her class.
2) Eliza Doolittle
Pygmalion may well have been a treatise on the class struggles of the early 1900s, but it could easily have been dry and preachy without the immediately loveable Eliza Doolittle taking centre stage. Her journey from cockney sparrow to fine lady is not without its battles, but in the process Eliza steals the pompous Professor Higgins’ heart and shows that class itself is not a matter of wealth or position but one of the heart. Plus hearing Audrey Hepburn shouting for her horse to ‘move your bloomin’ arse!’ is always a winner.
1) Emma Peel
To head up a list of this sort then you have to have a perfect balance of brains, beauty, and brawn. There were others who came close but truly there was only ever going to be one woman who could claim the title of Greatest Living, Fictional, Englishwoman and that was Mrs Peel. Her reliance on intelligent solutions to world-threatening problems, allied with the ability to karate chop her way through a swath of henchmen, and all while wearing a leather catsuit is the stuff of legend. Bravo Mrs Peel, the nation is in your debt…
So, what do you think? Any glaring omissions? Let me know who you think should have made the list and those that you think shouldn’t be here at all….