History’s most famous expats

History’s most famous expats

If you’re thinking of emigrating, or are already enjoying the life of an expat, then you’re in good company. Today footballers, actors and singers are constantly bouncing between locations, but even when travel was harder some of the most famous names in history spent time living overseas.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

Columbus was not only one of the most famous explorers the world has ever known but was largely responsible for the mass expatriation of Europeans to the Americas during the Early Modern period. Columbus was born in the Republic of Genoa (now north-western Italy) but took to the seas at a young age. After brief periods in Ireland and England Columbus engaged in trade in West Africa before re-discovering the America’s – the feat he is most remembered for. His later years were passed in Spain (now one of the most popular expat destinations) but were marred by controversy and strife. Columbus died in Spain and was buried in Seville in accordance with the wishes of his son, the former governor of Hispaniola.

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793)

Over the centuries many young royal women have been exiled from their homelands in order to make an advantageous marriage but Marie Antoinette is perhaps one of the most tragic of these regal expats. Born an Archduchess of Austria Marie Antoinette was married to the heir to the French throne in 1770, becoming Queen of France while still a teenager. The French public initially liked their beautiful foreign queen but turned against her and the rest of the monarchy in the last few decades of the 18th century. During the French Revolution Marie was tried and convicted of treason and in 1793 she was executed by guillotine in her adopted land.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

This British literary treasure was a key figure of the Romantic Movement. As well as his rather risqué aristocratic lifestyle Byron will forever be remembered for the lyric She Walks in Beauty and his influential epic Don Juan. After spending his early life in London, Byron explored the Mediterranean during his Grand Tour with spells in Portugal, Spain, Athens and Albania.  Although he returned to England he left in 1816 and passed the rest of his life as an expat. After settling initially in Switzerland he moved on to Rome, Venice and Genoa. Whilst in Genoa he participated in the Greek independence movement, for which he is still revered in Greece. In 1824 Byron fell ill in Missolonghi (in Western Greece) and died there shortly after. Although his body was embalmed and returned to England there are rumours to this day that his heart was buried in Greece.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Picasso is considered to be one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, renowned for his paintings, sculptures, ceramics and prints. Picasso was born in Spain and gained entrance to the famed Barcelona School of Fine Arts at just 13. Over the course of his career his style consistently adapted and he helped develop the concept of artistic collage as well as playing an integral role in the Cubist movement. In early adulthood Picasso journeyed to France, spending considerable time in Paris and although he returned to Spain several times he went on to pass the majority of his adulthood there, splitting his time between several properties. After becoming an artistic figure internationally Picasso died of a heart attack at the age of 91 in his chateau on the French Riviera.

Anna Pavlova (1881 -1931)

This Russian Prima Ballerina was so famous she had a dessert named after her. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries Pavlova danced with the Imperial Russian Ballet, created the iconic role of the ‘dying swan’ and performed all over the world. Pavlova left Russia behind her permanently in 1912 and moved to England. She settled in London and passed the rest of her life there, tending to her pet swans and helping to develop British ballet. After turning down an operation which could have saved her life (but left her unable to dance) Pavlova’s globetrotting days came to an end in the Netherlands where she died of pleurisy whilst on tour.

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