Queen Olivia

By Ben Felsenburg

She’s attained a national treasure status as one of our best-loved actresses. Now – far removed from her original claim to fame as the love interest in the marvelously twisted sitcom Peep Show –Olivia Colman is set to play HM The Queen in middle age for the next season of The Crown, picking up the mantle from Claire Foy to take on the role of a lifetime.

But what secrets lie in Colman’s own lineage? In Who Do You Think You Are? (Monday, BBC1, 9pm), the star (who was so winning as the gritty spymaster in The Night Manager) starts out by repeatedly insisting that she’s as unexotic as can be and knows little about her family beyond her own roots in Norfolk, but for persistent rumours of some sort of Frenchwoman in the distant past.

In fact, the genealogical quest rapidly bears rather racy fruit, as Colman discovers church court papers from two centuries back which reveal the scandal of an ancestor who was cuckolded by a wife who ‘lay naked and alone’ with a scoundrel harpist. And from there we’re off on a globetrotting adventure that encompasses India, the isolated Atlantic redoubt of St Helena, Scotland and even, ultimately, an answer to the French mystery. Colman is marvellously charming company throughout, chuckling with disbelief at the notion that her family could be quite so exciting. Here’s proof, were it needed, that the portrayal of her majesty will be in safe hands.


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