London: Mahatma Gandhi never existed while Britain's wartime prime minister Sir Winston Churchill was a fictional character. Don't fret. This is only what most Britons think about the great leaders.
According to a survey carried out in Britain, many believe that Mahatma Gandhi and Churchill are just mythical figures like Florence Nightingale, popularly known as the Lady with the Lamp. In fact, almost a quarter of the population have the popular notion that Churchill, 'the greatest Briton of all time', was made up.
Moreover, despite his celebrated military reputation, 47 per cent of respondents feel the 12th-Century English King Richard the Lionheart is fictional, according to the survey of 3,000 British teens. In contrast, a number of fictitious characters like Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur and Eleanor Rigby were given real life status.
While almost 65 per cent of respondents believe that mythical figure King Arthur existed and led a round table of knights at Camelot, 58 per cent of teens think that Holmes really lived at 221B Baker Street.
Fifty-one per cent of respondents believed that Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest, robbing the rich to give to the poor, while 47 per cent believed Eleanor Rigby was a real person rather than a creation of The Beatles.
The poll also revealed that nearly three quarters of those surveyed did not read history books while and 61 per cent admitted that they changed channels rather than watching historical programmes on television.
"While there's no excuse for demoting real historical figures such as Churchill, the elevation of mythical figures to real life showed the impact good films could have in shaping the public consciousness.
"Stories like Robin Hood are so inspiring that it's not surprising people like to believe these characters truly existed," the British media quoted Paul Moreton, the Head of UKTV Gold channel, which commissioned the poll, as saying.