‘I uncovered Danny Dyer’s royal heritage’

How did you break into publishing?

While I was at the National Archives I invited Alison Weir, Britain’s best-selling female historian, to give a talk. I told her I longed to write a book and she helped me develop a proposal, then introduced me to her agent who secured my first publishing deal with Penguin Random House.

My breakthrough came with my second book, Elizabeth’s Women, which became book of the week on Radio 4. It’s a sort of Holy Grail if you can find a new angle on the Tudors because they’re so well trodden. Rather than obsessing about whether Elizabeth I really was the Virgin Queen, I looked at the women who had influenced her, such as her mother Anne Boleyn. The book boosted my profile and I started getting calls from television companies wanting me to be a talking head on documentaries.

What has been your best-selling book?

My biography of Thomas Cromwell, published in 2015. It was timed to coincide with the BBC dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and captured the zeitgeist. I’m obsessed with Cromwell. Even my dog’s named after him.

Is TV well paid?

No, if I’m invited on news channels to comment, say, on a royal birth, I’m lucky to get paid at all. Similarly, I present Inside The Tower of London as part of my job at Historic Royal Palaces. You do TV for the profile and, you hope, the knock-on effect on your books.

What has been your most memorable TV moment?

Breaking the news to EastEnders actor Danny Dyer that he was a direct descendant of Thomas Cromwell on the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?. He particularly loved it when I revealed that Cromwell was made Earl of Essex. That was gold dust for Dyer, being an Essex boy.

Tracy Borman’s latest theatre tour, How To Be A Good Monarch: 1,000 Years of Kings and Queens, runs from April 17 until May 25; tracyborman.co.uk/theatre. Her latest book, Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Changed History, is out on May 18 (Hodder & Stoughton, £25).