Legendary actor Charles Dance has made his name playing aristocrats, including Tywin Lannister in HBO's Game of Thrones and playing noble Guy Perron in ITV’s 1984 series The Jewel in the Crown. The actor is keen to remind us that, although he tends to play upmarket villains, “There’s nothing aristocratic about me” But the upstairs world Charles inhabits on screen is nothing like his own background as his mum was an under house parlour maid. Charles wants to know if he comes from a long line of servants or if he can uncover some grander origins.
Charles is also determined to learn about his dad, who died when Charles was four. Charles knows hardly anything about him, not even when he was born, though finds out he served with the Royal Fusiliers in the Boer War and was much older than he believed. His father went into military service the age of 25 in 1900, making him older than Dance thought he was. He was 72-years-old when the actor was born.
Charles's search for information takes him to the other side of the world to meet close relatives he never knew he had.
As ever the programme-makers play the archive sources like a well-tuned ensemble, to moving effect: “It’s rather extraordinary to know that here in my 70th year, I am only finding out about all of this now,” he said. “There is something about this that I do find quite moving.”
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