We all know it as the game show that arguably caught the public imagination more than any other.
With a cash prize of £ 1 million – the largest sum ever offered by a television quiz – Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? quickly became a television phenomenon after the first episode aired in September 1998.
It's incredibly difficult to win the grand prize, however: only six have made it in the last 22 years – fewer than those who have walked the moon. The youngest Shropshire teacher Donald Fear won a million pounds this September. Now a fascinating TV series hears from the five previous winners who remember their journey to the jackpot.
The youngest Shropshire teacher Donald Fear (pictured) won a million pounds this September. Now hears a fascinating TV series from the five previous winners
1. THE ARISTOCRATIC FIRST MASTER
JUDITH KEPPEL, now 78
WHEN: November 2000.
BACKGROUND: Separated from the second husband, Neil, the mother of three from Fulham, south-west London, had spent around £ 100 to secure a place.
"I remember targeting a certain day and choosing over and over," she recalls. "BT called me and asked if I could see my phone bills go up."
FASTEST FINGER QUESTION: Put British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home in order. It took eight seconds.
ANNOY? Yes. & # 39; I found it absolutely terrifying. My heart beat from the moment I got in to the moment it was done, ”she says.
Her nerves were so palpable that host Chris Tarrant admits he "didn't think for a minute" that she would become the first million pound winner.
Judith Keppel, now 78, went on the show in November 2000 and spent around £ 100 to secure a spot (pictured).
STRATEGY: Use lifelines carefully. "I thought the audience was good for pop culture questions, and then you should ask the friend if it's someone you think they definitely know the answer," she says.
This came off well when she called a friend on the £ 125,000 question stage and asked her to complete the line: 'Exit followed by a. . . & # 39;
The answer is Bear, which her friend happily knew right away.
Notable for: Her aristocratic ancestry – through her great-grandfather Arnold Keppel, the 8th Earl of Albemarle, Judith is the third cousin of Camilla Parker-Bowles. Judith was a long-awaited jackpot winner – two years and 120 shows.
MILLION-POINT QUESTION: "Which king was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine?" – A question she admits made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
“Just two months before the program, I had been in France and attended an abbey church that was completely empty except for these four graves.
One of them was Eleanor and next to her was her husband Henry II. It was pretty scary in a way, ”she says.
WHAT SHE DID WITH THE MONEY: "It made a huge difference to me," she says. “I wasn't quite skinted, but I was a little worried about money so I just felt this great relief.
If I had been much younger I might have bought a giant Lamborghini, but instead I viewed it as a wonderful retirement pot.
“I invested the most even though I upgraded my car – but only on another modest car. I always planned to live in France, so at some point I bought somewhere out there and lived there seven months a year for ten years. & # 39;
WHAT IS SHE DOING NOW: Back in the UK, she has been featured on the BBC2 quiz show Eggheads for the past 17 years. She lives alone in London.
2. THE UNFLAPPABLE TEACHER
DAVID EDWARDS, now 73
WHEN: April 2001
BACKGROUND: A physics teacher from Staffordshire, married to Assistant Headmistress Viv and the father of Richard 41 and 38 year old Louise.
As a mastermind champion in 1990, he used a mathematical approach to get to Millionaire. He found that you had to make 500 calls on the phone lines to get an above-average chance and paid his son Richard footwork for it.
"I saw it as more of an investment than a gamble," he says. He also trained for the fastest finger with an accordion and a stopwatch.
FASTEST FINGER: "Bring these words in alphabetical order: Fathom First Folly Fence." David did it in 4.83 seconds
ANNOY? No. "I don't remember feeling worried at all," he says. "The excitement of the situation trumped the nerves."
STRATEGY: "Once I got over the £ 32,000 question, I was always on the ruthless side, not the cautionary side."
Notable for: I apologize endlessly to Viv – who was in the audience – for taking risks and using all of his lifelines on one question, in his case on the £ 125,000 question of whether Jack Straw John's real name, James, Justin or Joseph was.
The answer is John, but while David had two Uncle Jacks who were both born John, he felt that he couldn't make that assumption.
"The question wasn't what Jack is usually short for, but what it was short for on that occasion," he says. I hated that question. If I could have a fiver for every time someone said everyone knew the answer, I would be a richer man. & # 39;
MILLION-POINT QUESTION: "If you planted the seeds of Quercus robur what would grow?" The options were trees, flowers, crops, and vegetables.
"I was pretty sure it was a tree," says David. “A couple of months ago, one of my students was doing a high school tree project and I remember reading about Quercus in his report.
"So if Lewis is out there, thank you very much."
What he did with the money: David had hoped to put six digits in to take early retirement, and after getting seven digits instead, he and Viv did just that, paid off their mortgage, and in time moved into a slightly larger house close to spending around 100,000 pounds.
Then it was just "good fun". “We went to places we couldn't have gone otherwise.
We've driven through icebergs in Antarctica, dodged polar bears in Svalbard, and ordered cakes in Welsh in Argentina – lots of things we never dreamed we could do. & # 39;
They also bought land in France and built a house.
WHAT IS HE DOING NOW? He and Viv still live in Staffordshire, where David's million pound check returned to him by the bank is framed and hung on the wall.
3. THE DEBONAIR RISK TAKER
ROBERT BRYDGES, now 66
WHEN: September 2001 – just 11 days after "Cough Major" Charles Ingram won his (later controversial) million.
BACKGROUND: A 47-year-old retired town banker and father of two, Robert previously owned a £ 2 million townhouse in London and a £ 1 million manor near Hampshire while he and his wife Marilyn's ten year old son and eight year olds Daughter attended a private school.
Her apparent wealth sparked controversy among viewers, some of whom considered his victory unfair against the backdrop of his wealth.
FASTEST FINGER: "Put these TV soaps in the order they were first seen: Brookside, Coronation Street, Emmerdale Home And Away."
Robert did it in 5.67 seconds. (The answer is Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Brookside, Home And Away.)
ANNOY: None at all. Chris Tarrant described Robert as "a bit of a poker player" – "very relaxed and pretty cool".
STRATEGY: Trusting his mind, Robert replied when he was not entirely sure: For his £ 125,000 question asking which of the four names Graham, George, Gordon and Gerald is a type of flour, Robert Graham answered correctly because he was from Graham had heard crackers and "nothing else sounds right from a distance".
Notable for: Despite his cash IDs, he had to ask the audience which automaker the DB range was affiliated with for the £ 16,000 question (Aston Martin).
It's incredibly difficult to win the grand prize, however: only six have made it in the last 22 years – fewer than those who walked on the moon (picture, candidate Ingram Wilcox)
MILLION-POINT QUESTION: "Which scientific unit is named after an Italian nobleman: Pascal, Ohm, Volt, Hertz." The answer is Volt, the nobleman is Alessandro Volta.
What he did with the money: It is believed that he did a Masters in Shakespeare from the University of Birmingham and told a journalist that he planted many truffle-inoculated oak trees (the roots of which are dipped in a special puree to encourage truffle growth) in his garden .
He returned to Millionaire in 2003, played for charity with Judith Chalmers, and won £ 32,000 after getting the £ 250,000 question wrong.
WHAT HE DOES NOW: Unknown. He declined to attend the new show.
4. THE CONSUMMATE QUIZZER
PAT GIBSON, now 59
WHEN: April 2004
BACKGROUND: A software engineer from Galway, Ireland who now lives in Wigan, is married to Shelagh with two grown children.
FASTEST FINGER: "Put these inventions in chronological order: microwave, microscope, escalator, catapult."
Pat did it in 4.56 seconds (answer: catapult, microscope, escalator, microwave).
ANNOY: Hidden. Outwardly cool, he now admits that inside he was "wound up like a top," but told himself he was on a mission.
"I felt like a soldier who had fallen behind enemy lines and I just had to keep going."
STRATEGY: One question at a time and make good use of your lifelines. "I was determined to be methodical, like a man climbing a cliff," he says. "I kind of had tunnel vision."
Notable for: Reaching the million pound question with two lifelines.
MILLION-POINT QUESTION: “Which of these races is not part of the American Triple Crown horse races? Arlington Million, Belmont Stakes, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes.
While working on software for betting systems, Pat was "pretty confident" that he knew the answer, but realized that it would be insane not to use your lifelines.
"If there's anything worse than losing 968,000 pounds in public, it's the carefree way," he says.
He used his 50/50 lifeline to remove Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes from responses before calling a friend who told him he was 90 percent sure it was the Arlington Million.
“Only then did I realize that I had used the lifelines in the wrong order. You should always include the four options whenever you call a friend, ”he says.
What did he do with the money? "There weren't any yachts or racehorses – I'm a bit boring," he says. “We didn't even move into a new house.
It was more about securing our long-term future. The most important thing I was allowed to do was work part time in my job and work a week, have a week off.
& # 39; It was actually just a great satisfaction to win. I hate losing so much that it's a miracle I even enter anything. & # 39;
WHAT IS HE DOING NOW? Pat has had a remarkable career in quizzes. Now he's the second highest quizzer in the world and panellist at Eggheads. In 2010 he was crowned Mastermind Champion of Champions with a 100 percent top grade.
The one who almost pulled it off
Perhaps the most notorious quiz show contestant in history, British Army Major Charles Ingram, appeared to be the third person to win the jackpot in September 2001 before suspicions about the nature of his win became apparent.
While reviewing the recording, the production team made a connection between Ingram's responses and a cough from a waiting candidate, Lecturer Tecwen Whittock.
His payout was suspended and in April 2003 Ingram was convicted of a single conviction for executing a valuable security by fraud and given a suspended sentence of 18 months. The scandal was dramatized this year on ITV's acclaimed Quiz series.
- Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? The Million Pound Question is on Sunday at 8 p.m. on ITV.
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