The actor is, in fact, King Richard III's third cousin, 16 times removed
This was no imitation game: Benedict Cumberbatch attended the reburial of King Richard III on Thursday – as one of the fallen king’s descendants.
The Sherlock actor, 38, read a specially written poem by Carol Ann Duffy during the historical service at Leicester Cathedral, where the last Yorkist king was finally formally buried, 530 years after his death in battle.
It was during DNA research into the remains of the king that it was discovered that Cumberbatch was, in fact, the king’s third cousin, 16 times removed. The bloodline is present in several ways but most closely via Richard’s mother, Cecily Neville’s grandmother Joan Beaufort.
While the Queen sent a message that was read aloud at the service, Sophie Countess of Wessex attended on her behalf. She joined religious leaders, politicians, archaeologists and members of the public who had entered a ballot to attend the momentous occasion.
Not only is the Oscar-nominated British actor related to the medieval king, who died aged 32 in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth – but the newlywed is also set to play him in a new BBC adaption of the War of the Roses, to be released next year
Cumberbatch looked somber as read the moving poem, which began with “My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil, a human braille” and included the line “Grant me the carving of my name.”
The two-hour service helped climax a five-day ceremonial send-off for the king, full of the pomp and pageantry his 15th century funeral had lacked.
On Sunday, 35,000 people lined the route of a procession through Leicestershire, taking Richard back to the spot where he fell at Bosworth field. His remains, which were buried at the time of his death in an unmarked grave, went missing. They were finally discovered in 2012, beneath a car park in Leicester.
Ahead of the service, the Dean of Leicester, the Very Reverend David Monteith, told the BBC that the ceremony would be an “extraordinary, moving thing,” adding, “There are no mourners. It’s a much more of a hello, a welcome, a recognition of our history.”
The ceremonial affair will culminate in York on Thursday evening, when a choral evensong will be held at York Minster, followed by a procession through the city.