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Benedict Cumberbatch paid tribute to Richard III, a 15th-century British monarch and warrior whose remains were found under a parking lot almost three years ago, with a reading of a poem at his reburial ceremony at Leicester Cathedral in England on Thursday.
The late king, one of the most violent in British history, was the subject of one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays and the Sherlock actor is playing the role in an upcoming BBC series called The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses (see photo). He is also a distant cousin of Richard (as are potentially millions of other people in the U.K.), according to University of Leicester historian Professor Kevin Schürer.
Inside the packed cathedral, Cumberbatch read a poem that poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy had written for the king, titled "Richard."
"My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil / a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown / emptied of history. Describe my soul / as incense, votive, vanishing; you own / the same. Grant me the carving of my name," he recited.
The ceremony aired on the U.K.'s Channel 4. Watch Cumberbatch read the poem.
Richard (who is not to be confused with King Richard I, or King Richard the Lionheart, as depicted in Robin Hood), is the final English king to have died in battle—he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field on Aug. 22, 1485 by loyalists of Henry Tudor, spurring him to take the thone and be crowned King Henry VII. According to Italian-born scholar Polidoro Virgili, Richard's naked body was "slung over a horse" and transferred to Leicester, where he was buried without a funeral.
His remains were discovered in August 2012 under a parking lot, a former site of a church, in the English city. His reburial comes following years of scientific study and legal disputes, CNN reported, adding that his bones were placed in a coffin built by another distant relative, a Canadian-born, London based furniture maker named Michael Ibsen. He had provided DNA to help University of Leicester researchers.
Richard's tomb will remain on display at Leicester Cathedral from Friday until Easter Sunday, April 5.
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Many have criticized the decision to honor Richard with a reburial. David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester, cited in a foreword to the order of service that the king "seems a hero to some and a villain to others," according to Reuters.
No major royals attended the reburial. However, Queen Elizabeth II did release a statement..
"The reinterment of King Richard III is an event of great national and international significance," the New York Times quoted the reigning monarch as saying. "Today, we recognize a king who lived through turbulent times and whose Christian faith sustained him in life and death."