Olivia Colman on Who Do You Think You Are

Actress Olivia Colman is stunned to learn of her ‘hypocrite’ ancestor who publicly accused his wife of adultery but fathered TWO children with another woman on Who Do You Think You Are

  • BAFTA winner, 44, traces her family history for BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are
  • Olivia is delighted to discover that some of her relatives are originally from India
  • As she delves deeper it emerges that one family member had a secret
  • The Broadchurch star travelled to India and Scotland during her quest 

Actress Olivia Colman learned of a scandalous secret while tracing her family history on the BBC show Who Do You Think You Are?

The BAFTA and Golden Globe winner discovered that her maternal great great great great grandfather, Richard Bazett, went to parliament to get a divorce from his wife Margaret-Anne, after insisting she had been unfaithful with another man.

But as the Broadchurch star, 44, delved deeper into her ancestor’s tale of woe, it emerged that – despite Richard having laid the blame firmly on his wife – he had committed adultery also, bearing two sons with the woman who would become his second wife, Sarah.

Upon learning that her relative had been ‘having it away’ with another woman, stunned Olivia says on the show: ‘I liked him a while ago but now I think he is a massive hypocrite.’

Olivia is shocked to learn of her Indian ancestry – joking that she was ‘more interesting’ than she first thought

Olivia’s maternal great grandfather and grandmother times four, Richard and Sarah Bazett had five children in total

(L-R) Caroline Colman, Percy Colman (Paternal Grandparents), Mary Colman (Mother), Keith Colman (Father), Olivia Colman (child in the middle), Patricia Leaky and Alexander Graham Leakey (Maternal Grandparents)

Historian Rebecca Probert explains to Olivia that her great great great great grandfather Richard was a wealthy man who split his time between London and Calcutta.

He found love with his first wife Margaret-Anne, but according to court documents labelled ‘Bazett and Bazett’, back in 1806 Richard accused his wife of having an affair with a harpist named Frederick Dizi.

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At the time the church had jurisdiction over all aspects of married life – including whether or not couples could separate. 

He had to progress the request to parliament to get his marriage dissolved, but it was not granted until 1809.

That was three years after his son William and two years later than a second son Charles – according to his application to join the army cadets – Richard fathered with his second wife Sarah, was born.

As the implication of the dates dawns on Olivia she gasps: ‘Oh my god! 

‘So Richard has made a big deal about his first wife being unfaithful and how awful, shocking and terrible, meanwhile he is definitely having it away with Sarah! 

‘I liked him a while ago but now I think he is a massive hypocrite.’

Richard went on to have three more sons – Henry, Richard, and Alfred – with Sarah, with whom he lived on Saint Helena, an island in the middle of south Atlantic.

Award-winning actress Olivia Colman traces her family history for BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? and learns a surprising secret

Charles Young Blazett and Harriot Slessor are Olivia’s great grandparents time three – Harriot is originally from India 

Olivia, who lives in London with her husband Ed Sinclair and three children, a daughter who’s name she has not disclosed, nearly three, and two sons, Finn, 11, and Hall, nine, is a descendant of Richard’s second son Charles.

She says in the programme that all her family were born and bred in Norfolk and were all ‘fairly boring’.

‘If there’s any adventurers in my family they’d be so disappointed – I’m the least adventurous person I know. I don’t really go out. I like to be at home in my pyjamas with my family.’  

Charles had married and retired to Reading by 1871 with his wife Harriot, who was born in East Indies, Kishanganj, north east of India.

This news – which delights Olivia who had no idea of her link to India – sees her travel to south Asia to learn more about her great great great grandmother.

Olivia travels to India where she reads a letter between Charles and his brother that reveals his love for Harriot

What she finds leaves the actress, who is set to take on the role of the Queen in the next series of Netflix’s The Crown, in tears.

In 1810, Harriot, was roughly three or four-years-old when her father, British Army captain William Slessor, was killed in a shooting accident.

He was employed by the East India Company and her mother was a local woman from Kisanganj. 

Harriot’s mother gave her up when she was sent for by her grandmother in Britain, who paid thousands of pounds for her solo passage from India to England – a journey that took six months.

An emotional Olivia wipes away tears as she says: ‘The thing I feel saddest about is we don’t know more about Harriot’s mummy, we don’t know her name.

‘She gave up her daughter, hopefully for the best reasons, knowing she wouldn’t see her again.’ 

‘What I knew about my past was all English and now I definitely feel more exotic.’

Olivia Colman’s Who Do You Think You Are? episode airs on Monday 9 July on BBC One at 9pm

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