If you thought EastEnders star Danny Dyer’s closest connection to royalty was the Queen Vic, then think again – because in the upcoming new series of Who Do You Think You Are?, the actor discovers that he’s related to both William the Conqueror and Edward III, prominent Kings of England.
“It’s crazy,” Dyer tells the latest edition of the Radio Times (on sale tomorrow). “But the fact of the matter is that I am a direct descendant of royalty.”
However, there was another historical branch in Dyer’s family tree that he was even more interested in. During the course of the programme, it emerges that Dyer is descended from Tudor politician Thomas Cromwell, advisor to Henry VIII and memorably portrayed by Mark Rylance in BBC2’s acclaimed drama Wolf Hall (adapted from Hillary Mantel’s novel of the same name).
“He came from a slum, I come from a slum,” Dyer said when explaining the connection he felt.
“Cromwell left the country at 14, I started acting at 14. He was a self-taught lawyer. I’m a self-taught actor. Cromwell had two daughters and a son. I’ve got two daughters and a son. Cromwell wrote his last letter to Henry VIII begging for his life, on July 24, which is my birthday… And I drink in the Anne Boleyn pub.”
And naturally, the discovery led Dyer back to a Wolf Hall rewatch…
“I cried for most of it,” Dyer says in the Radio Times interview. “Just for its sheer brilliance.
“Rylance was my mentor when I was 17 [they both appeared in the BBC2 romantic comedy Loving in 1996]. I felt invincible at the time. I thought I knew it all. Then I met Rylance and I went, ‘I know bugger all.’ He’s not somebody you ask questions. You just watch, soak it all up.”
To read the full interview, you can pick up the new edition of Radio Times tomorrow (Tuesday 15th November) in shops and on the newsstand.