Great leaders of history

What can we learn from the great leaders of history, such as Elizabeth I and the Duke of Wellington? Below, explore the leadership style and image of four very different historical leaders.

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth’s ability to successfully navigate the male-dominated politics of the Tudor era, has earned her a place as one of history’s greatest leaders. With a carefully crafted image, Elizabeth managed to create an almost goddess like persona: “The Virgin Queen” married to her nation.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

When told that women couldn’t practice medicine, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She discovered a loophole in the Society of Apothecaries’ charter, admitting ‘all persons desirous of studying medicine’. It was decided that ‘persons’ did include women and she was given permission to study. She led the way, becoming the first British woman to gain a medical degree!

Great leaders of histyory - Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson © Wellcome Library, London

Henry VIII

Henry’s image was of vital importance and communicated his power through magnificent dress. With clothe of gold, furs and jewels, Henry was known to be the best dressed of any of his contemporaries. An anonymous foreigner wrote that Henry was ‘the best dressed sovereign in the world.’

Great leaders of history - Henry VIII
Portrait of Henry VIII as part of a stained-glass window at Hampton Court Palace installed in 1845 to the designs of Thomas Willement.

The Duke of Wellington

Successful as a military leader, but not without struggle as prime minster, the Duke of Wellington won over a nation with his military prowess. After leading his troops to defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Wellington rose to fame as he became and national hero.  In 1828, experiencing some political unpopularity, he earned the nickname ‘Iron Duke’.

Great leaders of history - The Duke of Wellington
© English Heritage, Apsley House, The Wellington Collection

Learn more about image and leadership (and how not to get pelted with fruit!) in our latest podcast.

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