Famous Pluralists

Even if the term 'Pluralist' is a new one - that isn't to say others haven't cottoned on to the idea in the past. We regularly update this page with a selection of Famous Pluralists from History. Check back each week to see who we're writing about!

Margery Kempe

Businesswoman, Holy Woman, AuthorFamous Pluralists - Famous Pluralists

The ‘Book of Margery Kempe' produced in the 15th Century is not only the first example of a woman's autobiography in English History, it also records the activities of a true medieval Pluralist. Margery, irritated that her husband wouldn't give her any money, decided to rectify her situation by setting up two small businesses - a brewery and a mill. Unfortunately a lack of angel investment/ a friendly VCT meant that, when the businesses ran into trouble (Margery hadn't been daunted by the fact she didn't actually know how to brew beer when she set up the first business), she was forced to give up her entrepreneurial dreams. She then began a life of pilgrimage and travel, visiting many of the holy places in Europe and the Near East. She also became an accomplished legal advocate in her own defence, boasting in the book of her successful defences against charges of being part of the Lollard Heresy. She is honoured in the Anglican Communion (the equivalent of Sainthood for the Church of England) for her good deeds. The Pluralists Club can organise a masterclass on achieving Sainthood on request from the members.

William Shakespeare

Playwright, Property MagnateFamous Pluralists - Famous Pluralists

‘To Invest or not to Invest, that is the question'

‘Alas my Profit Margins, I knew them, Horatio'

(Quotes from a now lost first draft of Hamlet: IFA of Denmark by William Shakespeare)

The Bard is most famous for his writing, with a string of blockbusters and bonkbusters between 1593 and his death in 1616. Few people, however, take the time to note that he was a successful businessman. His acting company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, built the Globe theatre. This proved so profitable that they were also able to buy Blackfriars Indoor theatre 15 years later. The success of these theatres brought Shakespeare an unusual problem - since tickets were all bought using small change, most of his profits existed in a form which was hard to use. He resolved this problem by investing heavily in property in the town of Stratford on Avon, and in other unusual financial products (including buying a share in the tithes paid to the parish church). He died a wealthy man, cryptically leaving his wife his ‘second best bed', and his children a valuable property and investment portfolio.

Constantine VII

Byzantine Emperor, Historian, Geographer

Constantine VII had rather rough luck at the start of his career. Taking power as a child, one of his regents, Romanos Lekapenos, seized power and had himself crowned co-emperor, meaning that until the age of 40 he had no real power. He distracted himself from this unfortunate state of affairs by becoming an academic. He produced dozens of works, most of which have subsequently been lost. The most famous of those that survive are the De Administrando Imperio (On the management of the Empire) and the De Ceremoniis (On Ceremonies). The former serves as some of the earliest evidence for the existence of Medieval Croatia, several Armenian Principalities, and contains the first mention in Literature of Kievan Rus’ (the collection of principalities and statelets which would eventually become Russia). It also advises on the appropriate bribes - ranging from purple cloaks to pots of pepper - necessary to prevent these peoples from attacking the empire. On Ceremonies describes exhaustively the different ceremonies and rituals used by the emperors to keep the court in line and well behaved. Constantine turned out to be no slouch in the politics department, either. When Romanos was deposed by his sons, Constantine cooly invited them to dinner and, as they sat down to eat, had them seized and bundled off to separate prisons on the Aegean islands. His one great error was entrusting command of an expedition to capture Crete to the Eunuch Constantine Gongyles (lit. ‘Turnip’) - who earned his name by leading his army to a crushing defeat. If any members of the Club employ any Eunuchs we do not suggest awarding them command of any major military expeditions.

Thomas Cochrane

Sailor, Freedom Fighter, Businessman, Crook, Inventor

Businessman, Sailor, Freedom fighter, Thomas Cochrane has served as the inspiration for several fictional heroes, including C.S. Forester’s ‘Hornblower’ and Patrick O’Brian’s series of novels about Captain Jack Aubrey. This mad Scot first became famous when he attacked a Spanish ship of the line three times the size of his own ship, and by outstanding skill was able to capture it intact. Cochrane then became an MP until 1814, when his apparent involvement in a fraud scandal at the London Stock Exchange saw him expelled from the House. Never one to be kept down by a setback he set sail for South America, where he was instrumental in supporting the independence of Chile and Brazil from the Spanish and Portuguese Empires. He then went to Greece and assisted in their independence bid from the Ottomans. The profits of all this activity were invested in Cochrane's career as an inventor - he patented a tunneling shield with Isambard Kingdom Brunel's father which would later be crucial to the construction of the Thames Tunnel. The Pluralists Club would like to make clear that it does not approve of supporting plural careers with the profits of raids on Spanish and French shipping.

Geoffrey Chaucer:

Poet, diplomat, minor government official regulating the London wool trade, spy;

Chaucer kept himself busy during the 14th Century. He had an unsettled start to his career, following Edward III round on his French campaigns, before trying to study Law in the Inner Temple. Unable to settle for this he then popped up in Milan, sent as a ‘special envoy' of the English crown to negotiate with the head of a mercenary band. Shortly afterwards he was back in London, where Edward III granted him the gift of ‘a gallon of wine daily for the rest of his life', probably as a reward for some of his early poetry. He then settled in London as a customs official, chiefly ensuring that the duty on wool exports (the government's main source of revenue in the period) was collected. He took this time to begin work on the famous Canterbury tales. He then held a host of minor government posts, and received a then lucrative royal pension of £20 a year - although some of his later writings suggest that the King was often tardy in paying this! The Pluralists Club strongly suggests writing to your local MP to point out the opportunities for the elimination of the national deficit inherent in paying civil servants using wine.

Florence Nightingale

Nurse, Statistician, CampaignerFamous Pluralists - Famous Pluralists

Florence Nightingale is best known as the Lady of the Lamp - the woman who during the Crimean war professionalised British Nursing. However this was only one of her achievements. She was also a noted statistician - popularising the Pie Chart and inventing a variation of it called the ‘Nightingale Rose Diagram'. This led to her being elected as the first female member of the the Royal Statistical Society. The fame and good image which her efforts won her enabled her to become a prominent political campaigner. In her later life she advocated for improved conditions in India - managing to reduce the ordinary mortality rate in the Army of India from 69 to 18 per thousand each year. She also successfully advocated for improving the conditions of Prostitutes in London, while ensuring that many workhouses had resident nurses


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