The Radio Times logo

Emma Willis was left horrified by a violent ancestor on Who Do You Think You Are?

The TV presenter’s family tree definitely had a rotten branch…

Published: Friday, 4th August 2017 at 8:57 am

Celebrities probably go on Who Do You Think You Are? to find connection with their family past, unearth secrets and discover emotional tales that make them feel a kinship with those who shared their bloodline years, if not centuries, ago.


However, when you go digging into the past you can never be sure what you’ll find, as Celebrity Big Brother and The Voice host Emma Willis discovered in last night’s episode of the BBC genealogy series when it was revealed that one of her forebears had a very violent past.

Initially pleased to discover there was a “gentleman” in the family in the form of five-times great great grandfather Richard Fowler, Willis changed her mind when she learned more about him. You see, in 1797 a newspaper article reported that Fowler went with another man to a house, dragged a father and son out of bed – and then things got really nasty.


Willis discovers her family's past

"On the very instant they appeared they were knocked down and received many desperate stabs,” Willis read from the paper before clapping her hand to her mouth in shock. The article went on to reveal that the father and son were stabbed several more times and the son even tortured.

"That's horrific,” Willis said. “Surely they can't or wouldn't have reported it if it were not true?"


The show's historian went on to confirm the probable truth of the story given that Fowler was later charged in court, though added that Willis’s ancestor was spared a murder charge as both victims miraculously survived their ordeal.

"It's hard to think he's a good man but there's so much going on it's hard to make sense of it,” Willis concluded.

Clearly, when it comes to turning up family secrets you should be careful what you wish for…


Who Do You Think You Are? airs on BBC1 on Thursdays at 9:00pm


Sponsored content