Viewers of Who Do You Think You Are? watched EastEnders star Danny Dyer receive the shocking news that he is a descendant of royalty.
The actor, known for his hard man roles, was the first celebrity to take part in the new series of the BBC One programme and was given possibly the most surprising family tree of anyone to appear on it as he was told that he was descended from Thomas Cromwell, Edward III, William the Conqueror and Henry III.
At the beginning of the episode, Danny said: “I’d like to find out I’m related to someone in the aristocracy or something. Something different to what I’m known for, that’s what I’d like, to freak a few people out.”
The episode started a world away from any royal connections, with Danny finding out that his ancestors had been in a workhouse frequently throughout their lives.
When Danny’s ancestors’ fortunes finally started looking up as he found out he was related to landed gentry in the form of a Robert Gosnold who fought in the English Civil War, he was surprised.
He said: “Robert Gosnold, sounds posh. Finally some money in my family, I’ve been led to believe there was money. I’m hoping he’s a proper geezer, like proper.”
As Danny was given more information about his family’s past, he said: “I’m not really a royalist, none of my family are, but now I feel like I wanna be.”
The episode went on to reveal that Danny was a direct descendant of Henry VIII’s right hand man Thomas Cromwell, the subject of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall books which were recently adapted for a BBC series.
A disbelieving Danny said: “So Danny Dyer is a direct descendant of Thomas Cromwell. I can’t believe it, I don’t know what to say. I’ll say it again, I’m a direct descendant of Thomas Cromwell.”
The actor was shown visiting Hampton Court Palace, which he labelled “the gaff”, and found out more about Cromwell as well as seeing some paintings of him.
He said: “I’ve got the Cromwell jowls. That man, I’ve got his blood running through my veins. It excites me a lot, although I don’t know much about him.”
Although Danny was born in London, he now lives in Essex and so was delighted to discover that Cromwell was made Earl of Essex in 1540.
He said: “So in a way, I’m sort of the Earl of Essex? I think it’s going to change me as a human being. Not in a bad way…it’s going to give me more confidence.”
But the biggest shock came when Danny was told that because Cromwell’s son Gregory had married Henry VIII’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Seymour, he was actually descended from Edward III, William the Conqueror and Henry III.
He said: “I can’t be… A direct descendant from Edward III? It’s stupid, innit? I just need to digest it and get it in me nut, and then I can move on with my life.
“I think I’m going to treat myself to a massive ruff and just bowl about with it, and then if anyone questions it they’ll just have to walk away embarrassed.”
He added: “Me, a kid from Canning Town, and this is my blood line. I cannot compute it in my brain.”