FOLLOWING FAMILY TIES
BETWEEN the UK series airing on Foxtel and the new Australian season on SBS, I am fully immersed in the historical drama that comes from this genius genealogy format, showcasing the fascinating family histories of some of our most celebrated stars. Tonight’s episode had me glued to the screen from the opening credits to the final, tear-soaked climax of this utterly compelling climb into the family tree of MastermindAustralia host, Jennifer Byrne. Without a hint of hubris, Byrne is honest about the world of privilege she was born into – the granddaughter of former Victorian governor Sir Reginald Dallas Brooks; growing up with five butlers and all the trappings of an upper-class life. But it was not without its heartache and scandal, with Byrne clearly still traumatised by her parents’ divorce; when her mother left the marriage for another woman. As the former journalist admits, she has “conspicuously avoided” exploring her family’s past but when she does it’s a remarkable tale – taking her back to Tudor time and the court of King Henry VIII; before heading to China, where her father Robin was born and lived until he was nine (he was sent to boarding school in England when WWII broke out). His relationship with his own father, Ernest, will touch your heart and then break it, as Jennifer reads his final letter, written from a Japanese internment camp, just weeks before his death. Don’t miss it.