British Folk Heroes

A look at the most famous British Folk Heroes, and the spiritual messages they give us.

Britain is brimming with inspirational figures from our past. Legendary heroes whose stories resonate through the centuries showing that with resilience, courage and dedication to a cause, it is possible to overcome adversity and transform seemingly impossible situations.

Fact fuses with fiction in some of their stories but the message of their lives is the same: you can change your world for the better. Here are some of the UK's most inspiring folk heroes.

King Arthur

This warlord was Celtic British leader, during the 6th century, who fought to defend Britain from Saxon invaders. Arthur is likely to have been a historical figure around whom legends were woven to embellish his life and achievements. The romantic stories about the knights and ladies of King Arthur's court are far removed from the historical figure but serve as interesting morality tales. Arthur's death was given a god-like mystical significance. Legend says he did not die but was taken to the Island of Avalon by elemental spirits to rest until England is in need of him once again. There is a strong mystical thread to the tales of King Arthur. In later years this was embellished with Christianity, but originally Arthur's stories reverberate with strong Pagan spirituality.

Spiritual message: Spirituality endures while the might of the sword fades away


Ruler of the British Iceni tribe, she raised her people in revolt against the invading Roman forces who attempted to seize control of her homelands. The Romans had flogged Boudicca and violated her two daughters, hoping to break their spirit. But this maltreatment merely awakened the determination of the Queen of the Icenis. Boudicca and her army won three astounding victories against the Romans at Colchester, St Albans and London. Boudicca rode into battle at the head of her soldiers with her two daughters fighting beside her. Eventually, the Britons' revolt fell to Roman military might. But Boudicca was never captured or killed by the Romans. A massive bronze statue of this powerful ruler and her daughters, riding in their war chariot, stands near Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament in London to commemorate this Great British heroine.

Spiritual message: Stay strong despite whatever hardships life throws in your path


Robin Hood

The archetypical folk hero fighting against an oppressive authority for the good of the ordinary person, Robin Hood is the original freedom fighter. He was turned into an outlaw because of the harsh laws of the Middle Ages that impoverished thousands of people. As Robin was fighting against a corrupt lawmaking system, he is, perhaps, a universal figure symbolic of the many oppressed people of his time and beyond. Robin and his band of Merry Men go onto have many adventures and, in some versions of the story, his tale has a happy ending with pardons issued for him and his Merry Men by King Richard.

Spiritual message: Good will conquer evil

Owain Glyndwr

The last native Welsh Prince of Wales, from 1401 - 1415, Glyndwr fought to keep the invading English from seizing control of Wales. He maintained the resistance for nine years against vastly stronger forces. When his final stronghold fell, Glyndwr escaped. He inspired such powerful loyalty that he was never betrayed to his enemies, despite a hefty reward being offered for his capture. He died a free man.

Spiritual message: Friendship and loyalty is more important than glory

Florence Nightingale

A social reformer who raised standards of care in hospitals, Florence was born into a rich family and could have settled into a life of ease as an upper class lady. Instead she broke social conventions - to the horror of her family - and went to nurse wounded soldiers on the front line during the Crimean War. She became known as the 'lady with the lamp' as the soldiers saw her as a ministering angel saving their lives.

Spiritual message: Follow your heart

Emmeline Pankhurst

A political campaigner who brought major reforms to British society, Pankhurst was leader of the Suffrage movement in Britain. Suffrage simply means your democratic right to vote for the people who govern your country. She secured the right to vote for men over 21 years and women over the age of 30 in 1918. This was amended to include the vote for everyone over 21 years in 1928.

Spiritual message: You can change the world

William Wallace

A Scottish freedom fighter who battled for the independence of his country. He won a number of significant victories over the English. He risked his life repeatedly in pursuit of his cause, until he was betrayed and executed in London. He has become an enduring symbol of freedom.

Spiritual message: Your personal freedom is worth any cost


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