Ed Balls has admitted he found it ‘quite difficult’ learning about the history of his ancestor on Who Do You Think You Are?, having discovered that they were an arsonist.
When celebrities appear on the BBC programme, often they don’t know what they’re walking into, such as when comedian Jack Whitehall famously found out that his ancestor was part of a political movement that prevented the working class public from being able to vote.
Former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed may be able to relate to the shock, having learnt that his four times maternal great-grandfather, who was an agricultural labourer, was charged for burning down a farmhouse and its animals in 1832.
Ed’s relative, Christopher Green, supposedly carried out the arson as an act of rebellion over the introduction of new machinery that would do his job for him.
While speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press, the former Labour politician said that while his ancestor was ‘probably on the wrong side of history’, he ‘felt very much his pain and stress’.
‘Probably in the end, he was on the wrong side of history but I felt very much his pain and stress, and the fact that he was willing to go to prison for a year to protest about wages… it was brave what he did,’ he said.
Ed stated that learning about Christopher’s history was ‘harder as it went on’, questioning whether there was ‘another way in which he could have made his point’.
‘But of course, as Rose the historian says, not really, because back then, there was no parliament, there were no trade unions, there were no other routes for protest,’ he added.
‘I found that bit quite difficult and I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to think when we got to the trial.’
The 2021 series of Who Do You Think You Are? has featured episodes on a variety of well-known stars, including comedian Josh Widdicombe, actor Judi Dench and sports pundit Alex Scott.
Ahead of Ed’s episode, viewers have also learnt about the family histories of comedian Joe Lycett, singer Pixie Lott and YouTuber Joe Sugg.
Who Do You Think You Are airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One, with Ed Balls’ episode airing on Tuesday November 30.