Who Do You Think You Are?

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Derek Jacobi

Series 12 - Episode 3 Derek Jacobi



One of the many pleasures of this particular edition is hearing Sir Derek Jacobi reading historical documents in his lovely, actorly voice; it sounds like the plumping of a thousand duck-down pillows.

Jacobi is twinkly and fun as he embarks on a tour into his family’s past. Jacobi is from east London stock – “it was a small family, very close, very loving, a bit gorblimey” – and begins his ancestral odyssey in the pie and mash shop he’d visit as a boy every Saturday night. (Fish and chips on Wednesday!)

He’s on the trail of the splendidly named Salome Laplain, his mum’s part-French grandmother. But what unfurls before Jacobi is an extraordinary story that stretches back to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the persecution of French Protestants, the Huguenots, by Louis XIV.

He alights on his great (x6) grandfather, a man who led the most dangerous and thrilling of double lives.


Actor and stage director Derek Jacobi enjoyed a relatively humble upbringing in Leytonstone, London, where his father ran a sweet shop and his mother worked in a drapery, but research into his maternal side of the family soon uncovers a link to a far more intriguing past. Discovering that his great-grandmother's name was Salome Laplain, Jacobi finds that he is descended from a wealthy French Huguenot who fled religious persecution, and who has connections to royalty on this side of the channel.

Cast & Crew

Contributor Derek Jacobi
Director Helen Williamson
Series Producer Kathryn Taylor