Actor Danny Dyer is best-known for playing pub landlord Mick Carter in EastEnders, so it’s appropriate that his episode of Who Do You Think You Are? begins with him having a pint with his “old man” in his local pub, to find out what he knows of his family history. He brings along some old photographs, going back to 1851, of Danny’s 3x great grandparents, Ann and Albert Buttevant. Anne, Danny feels, is a strong woman with a “fascinating boat” (‘boat race’, meaning face. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it), before hearing a family legend that they ran the workhouse in London’s Mile End. This leads Danny to the Tower Hamlets archive, where he learns that they were actually regular residents of the workhouse, rather than being responsible for the running of it.
Police records are next, revealing a crime committed by his 2x great grandmother, Mary Ann Buttevant, involving covering up the death of an infant. With cause of crime revealed, Danny heads to Poplar for an emotional visit with Mary Ann’s youngest child, 92-year-old Aunty Silvie. She is also shocked to hear of how her mother tried to cover up the accidental death of her first baby, at the age of just 17. Happily, this sad event seems to have led Mary Anne to become the unofficial local midwife, helping the community to deliver many babies over the years.
The visit also uncovers a rumour of wealthy French ancestry somewhere in the family, leading Danny to genealogist Laura Berry, who divulges a surprise in a maternal line – a 10x great grandfather born in 1611 who was part of landed gentry, with his own coat of arms. Danny assumes he was “Cake-oe bake-oe” (‘really rich’ or ‘caked’ with money, evidently). Robert Gosnold fought for the royals during the English Civil War in the 17th century and Danny hopes he will have been a ‘real leader of men’. This turns out to be the case at a siege in Oxford where the King was captured and executed. Robert’s troops were heavily outmanned with no hope of victory, but were not willing to give up, making Danny “hopelessly in love with him”, his “hero”.
Being a royalist cost the Gosnold family their land and social standing, however, although Robert’s mother was a Tollemache, who are still a landowning family to this day. Danny pays them a visit at the magnificently grand Helmingham Hall, which has a moat and drawbridge: “faaahkin el” (‘f***ing hell’), is his understandable reaction. But the shocks don’t stop there: The Tollemaches are shown to descend from Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right-hand man.
Hampton Court palace is next on the list, to see Thomas Cromwell’s official biographer (Danny suggests you “could have a right rave up in here” – he’s not wrong). Danny learns Thomas was something of a cheeky chap himself, coming from humble beginnings, and was known to be so sharp and funny, that he became incredibly powerful in the King’s Court, even being gifted the title of Earl of Essex (where, interestingly, Danny now lives). But things go horribly wrong. The King is convinced that Cromwell is plotting against him and has him executed (as a commoner). However, before this, Cromwell’s guile secures the future of his family for generations – he married his son to the sister of Jane Seymour (the third – and favourite – wife of Henry VIII), connecting future generations – including Danny – to Edward VI.
Danny goes to “have a pipe” (I’m lost now too) at the resting place of Edward III, his 22x great grandfather, and comes to realise that this means he is also DIRECTLY descended from ALL of the kings of England, right back to William the Conqueror.