Dan Snow on his famous family and being frightened of his ‘stalkers’

It’s easy to see why Dan Snow’s a favourite amongst mums. At 6ft 6, he has the rangy, well-built physique of an Oxbridge rower, and the foppish hair and handsome, rugged face that looks like he’s stepped straight out of a menswear ad.

He’s got a lot to thank his dual Canadian-British dual heritage for: he’s full of easy, laid-back, North American charm, but he’s also not short of the sort of mannerisms picked up during years at a British public school.

It’s 16 years since, fresh from his history degree at Oxford, he presented his first history show with his dad, the BBC journalist Peter Snow . He had, in fact, never set out to be on the box at all.

"My mum and dad were both TV journalists," he explains. "You don’t want to do what your parents are doing. Then I did about six months of data uploading in a software company and thought, ‘Hang on a second.’ I always wanted to tell stories about history and needed to work out how to do that. Working with my father? Oh my God, we annoyed each other so much. We laughed, we fought, it was an intense experience, but also a great privilege."

Dan, it turns out, had rather a talent for telling history stories. As well as presenting more than 40 BBC documentaries, the presenter has also launched several historical smartphone apps, and a runaway hit podcast.

"This is the way that people are going to learn in the future," Dan says, leaning forward as he warms to his favourite subject.

"History needed bringing into the 21st century. I ruffled a few feathers when I said that apps are a better medium for history than books, but I stand by it – an app is a book with the addition of moveable maps, audio and video. I love books, but apps are clearly a way of introducing this rich, extra stuff."

Dan’s just about to take his history show on a UK tour.

"On TV you don’t know who you’re talking to, it could just be your mum watching at home. But on stage suddenly there’re human beings in front of you and it’s really exciting. What I’ve learnt in life is that most people know more about history than I do, particularly about their local area."

Although most of Dan’s fans are just keen history aficionados, he’s discovered that there is a darker side to fame.

"You do get weird stalking things that happen, and even though I’m a 6ft 6 athletic bloke, it’s amazing how intimidating a stalker is," he says, slowly measuring out his words.

"There have been several people, always women, that have obviously been a little bit ill and have projected certain things on me. It’s difficult…because if they have mental health problems you want to try to help. Occasionally authorities have been involved."

This is the first time Dan’s spoken about his struggles with stalkers, and he looks a little pensive as he talks.

"When you see that same person at events several times, it’s amazing how intimidating that is. You immediately go, ‘Oh my God.’ These people will be sectioned and they’ll say, ‘Look, I know this sounds weird but the only person who understands what’s going on here is Dan.’ And then the doctors will have to get in touch with me and ask if I know them. I’ll say, ‘I do know them, but it’s because of uncomfortable events.’"

He pauses for a moment, gazes out of the window and blows the air from his mouth upwards so that the hair ripples from his brow, takes a sip of iced water.

"Then there’s the drunk fans: sometimes if you’re on a night out, they can get angry that you’re not giving them enough attention. If you chat with them, then leave it there and they want to keep going, they can they can flip quite easily. My wife Edwina has got used to it, but she finds it odd, especially if the kids are there."

Dan’s also had some seriously hairy moments while filming in dangerous places such as Syria and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The Congo was very disturbing. You live with a constant fizzing adrenaline that’s got to be bad for you. I was hanging out with rebel groups and there were kids with AK37s with the safety catches off – it was brutal. Then I just thought, ‘What am I doing here? I have children at home. I’m not an aid worker, I’m just an idiot, a 32-year-old on an ego trip.’ I wouldn’t go back to those places: if I got killed out there my wife Edwina would dig me up and kill me again."

These days Dan still travels for work about one week a month, but he likes to stay close to his imaginatively named brood: Zia, 6; Wolf, 4; and Orla, 2.

His wife of 10 years Lady Edwina Grosvenor is a beautiful, eminent criminologist, who just happens to be a member of one of the wealthiest families in Britain. Naturally, it’s a family full of history buffs.

"My poor children have got Stockholm Syndrome," he laughs. "They just think it’s normal to be dragged around museums all the time. My daughter occasionally says, ‘It would be nice to have a relaxing day.’ And I’ll say, ‘Hey, don’t let that kind of chat creep into this family.’"

Dan’s a very involved dad, although he admits that Edwina takes on more of the childcare. But there’s certainly no good-cop-bad-cop in the Snow household.

"Traditional people will say things like, ‘It’s lovely being a dad, isn’t it? Just give them some sweets on the weekend.’ But bl**dy hell, I’m hardcore. It breaks my heart but if my son has a little tantrum, I put him on the naughty step. I reckon my son would like me more if I gave him sweets all the time though!."

Dan’s own family reads like a Who’s Who? of the accomplished. There’s his great-great-grandfather, the inter-war prime minister Earl Lloyd George; his father Peter Snow; assorted Bishops, Dukes and Duchesses; and his cousin Jon Snow, the famous face of Channel 4 News.

"Joe, as we call him, was one of the first people to come and visit us when our baby was born. All of these supposedly grand people in our family, they’ve got their feet firmly on the ground," says Dan.

"We’re a mixed family – there are people who didn’t go to university, there are people who run universities."

But with such illustrious heritage, it’s no wonder that the word nepotism is often levelled at the Snows. Rather than taking offence, Dan takes a rather more humble, philosophical attitude to the generous leg-up he received in life.

"The nepotism tag doesn’t annoy me because of course, I owe everything to my parents. We all do," he says after a thoughtful pause.

"They taught me how to read, they taught me how to be interested in the world, they taught me how to control my temper. If I’d been raised in an orphanage in Shanghai, I’d be a totally different human being. My parents are the only reason I’m sitting here, the only reason I went to Oxford."

So how do you keep your kids down to earth, when their mum’s family owns more streets London than a Monopoly World Champ, and your own family dynasty is rather impressive?

"We just try and have a normal life – it’s not really grand or anything," he says. "Of course we’re privileged, and we don’t want to spoil them with too many presents. I just take them outside and just run them ragged, and get them covered in the mud. Some things just ground you, right? And literally being covered in the ground is one of them. I want them to be tough and aware, not sitting around on velvet cushions."

Hungover or fresh as a daisy?

These days I’m fresh. Me and my mates aren’t interesting enough to give ourselves a crushing hangover. All the conversations that need to happen can happen before 10pm. But if Bill Clinton wanted to stay up really late drinking with me, I’d be like, ‘Alright, Bill.’

What couldn’t you get through the weekend without?

Getting outside, just leaving the emails and phone behind.

Gym day or lazy day?

Unless I go to the gym my body starts falling apart. I’m getting to the age where I should probably start worrying about my health.

Cooked breakfast or porridge?

I’m a proud patriot when it comes to breakfast. Full English!

Lazy lie in or up with the lark?

I wake everyone up. We’ve got a sailing boat on the south coast and we go for breakfast on the Isle of Wight. The earlier the better. No one’s around and the light is wonderful.

Weekend away or Sunday brunch at home?

I love exploring the UK: jumping on an early flight to Glasgow, heading to the west coast of Scotland. When the weather is good it’s the most beautiful place.

Dan Snow: An evening with the History Guy on the History Hit Tour is at theatres around the UK from June 2 through to March 2019. For tickets, go to ticketline.co.uk or call 0844 888 991

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