On Wednesday, after lying beneath a council park for more than 500 years, the mortal remains of King Richard III were watched over while being reburied by more than 700 attendees, including Benedict Cumberbatch. The funeral was presided over by Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; and it took place in the 800-year-old Leicester Cathedral where the famously villainous Shakespearian character’s remains will rest.
Cumberbatch and Robert Lindsay, both actors in attendance, had portrayed the murderous king in the Shakespearian play. In fact, Kevin Shurer, a university genealogical expert, has released evidence that Cumberbatch is related to the late king. The star actor of the hit television show, Sherlock, is the second cousin of King Richard, sixteen times removed. The Oscar-nominated actor, Cumberbatch, read a fourteen-line poem at the ceremony that was written by noted Scottish poet, Carol Ann Duffy.
Duffy has expressed what an honor it is to be part of such a unique event that bids farewell to a king that never received a proper burial after falling, 530 years ago, in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Within her poem was read the line, “Grant me carving of my name.” This is apparently a reference to the long period of time in which the king laid without a tombstone or marker to identify his resting place. Queen Elizabeth II was not in attendance at the ceremony. She did however also provide a written message that was read. The Queen was represented at the funeral by the Countess of Wessex.
Cumberbatch was not the only relative of Richard’s in attendance. Michael Ibsen, a carpenter and distant relative of Richard’s, crafted the coffin that bore the king’s remains. It was actually Ibsen’s DNA that was used to identify the remains found in the unmarked grave when it was first discovered. The coffin was carried to the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field and back to Leicester Cathedral, which took over five hours. This precession was lead by Army guards that carried the golden wooden coffin to its destination.
King Richard III was the last English king to die in battle, and the last of the house of Plantagenet to rule the British Empire. The Plantagenet house provided fourteen kings to the royal line of England. Six of these were from the house of Lancaster and York. Although Richard is depicted as a king who kills his nephews for his own selfish reasons in Shakespeare’s Richard III, some believe he was not so vicious nor hunchbacked.
In a foreword to the ceremony, it was expressed that the order of service was of “great national and international significance.” The multi-day celebration that has been described as being one-part state funeral, one-part Shakespeare, and one-part murder mystery drew tens of thousands of on-lookers to the streets for the procession.
Benedict Cumberbatch paid tribute to a king who had been lost to the world, and who he himself has portrayed in plays by reading a poem for the audience in attendance. King Richard III has been reburied, however, surely his likeness will continue to be found in the theaters of the world round.
By Joel Wickwire
Photo by CircaSassy – Flickr License