So with the whole hoo ha around Richard III and a re-appraisal of his image as a historical villain, it got me thinking about who in British history is a true, prove able, dyed in the wool villain. It struck me that there aren't that many really as most of the time it comes down to perspective, context and generally being a product of their times. However, in thinking about a list, in no particular order and absolutely open to challenge, I came up with -
Mary "bloody Mary" Thomas Howard uncle of Anne Boleyn - ruthlessly ambitious Oliver Cromwell - certainly for his Irish campaigns Matthew Hopkins - "witch finder General"
These are just a starter for 10. So, any more we can add to the list?
As far as 'bloody Mary' goes - my history teacher made us compare how many people Elizabeth I had killed as heretics, and how many Mary did. It is interesting because we tend to think Elizabeth was all desperately tolerant and C of E while Mary, being Catholic, was all out for blood. But what happened to Margaret Clitheroe isn't especially tolerant.
I think Thomas Arundel (bishop of Canterbury in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries) was probably not terribly lovely. He banned new translations of the English Bible, and he made 'heresy' (which included owning an English Bible without official approval, as well as not believing in the Catholic Church's teachings) a crime punishable by burning to death. He gave bishops powers to try to chase down and find heretics by inspecting their books and questioning them.
I don't think he was malicious, but certainly harsh and intolerant. I think perhaps being inflexible to the point where you harm a lot of people is as bad as being malicious?
I know less about it, but I think there's some villany going on with baby-farms that Thomas Coram exposed, too.