Benedict Cumberbatch to read poem at reburial of distant cousin King Richard III

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Benedict Cumberbatch will read a special poem at the reburial service for King Richard III on Thursday. The British actor, who is a distant relative of the late ruler, is a fitting choice – he has been identified as the King's third cousin, 16 times removed.

Organisers had previously kept Benedict's involvement a secret, but it has now emerged that the Oscar nominee will play a starring role at the Leicester Cathedral ceremony.

The cathedral has revealed that Benedict, 38, is "looking forward" to the service and has a "passion to know more" about the king. He will be playing his distant relative in an upcoming BBC Two drama, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, which is expected to air in 2016.

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Benedict Cumberbatch has been identified as King Richard III's distant cousin, 16 times removed

The poem that Benedict will read at the reburial service has been specially penned by Dame Carol Ann Duffy. The Poet Laureate was commissioned to write the poem last year, which is described as "a meditation on the impact of Richard's finding and on the legacy of his story".

The 14-line piece entitled Richard includes the phrase "grant me the carving of my name", which will finally be achieved when the monarch is laid in his tomb.

"It is a privilege to be involved, in a small way, in this unique event and to have seen the style and grace with which the City of Leicester has made history alive," said Carol Ann of her contribution.

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Members of the public have flocked to Leicester Cathedral to view the late King's coffin

Richard, who was the last King of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, died in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. His remains were discovered under a car park in Leicester in 2012.

In the past week, thousands of people have flocked to the East Midlands city to view Richard's coffin before it is buried on Thursday.

The service will take place at 11.30am and will be broadcast live from 10.00am.