The family of Oscar-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch is reportedly facing the prospect of legal action over its historical links to the slave trade in Barbados.
A top official on the Caribbean island, who has a leading role on its national commission for reparations, has told the Daily Telegraph it is in the “earliest stages” of efforts to seek damages from ancestors of the Cumberbatch estate.
The paper described how Joshua Cumberbatch, the seventh great-grandfather of Benedict Cumberbatch, bought the Cleland plantation in the north of the island in 1728.
It was home to 250 slaves until the abolition of slavery more than 100 years later.
The decision resulted in the family, and other slave-owning operations across the British Empire, being compensated by the UK government.
Slavery has been at the forefront of debate across many Caribbean communities in recent years, largely prompted by the build-up to the decision of Barbados to become a republic in 2021.
Campaigners in Barbados are urging Tory MP Richard Drax, who inherited a sugar plantation on the island that was established with slave labour in the 1620s, to hand it back.
He could face an application for compensation if he refuses.
Even the Royal Family faces the prospect of a claim, according to officials, though they have stressed there is no sense of blame to be attached to living relatives for the actions of their ancestors.
David Comissiong, deputy chairman of the national commission on reparations, told the Daily Telegraph he would want to see ancestors of slave-owning families pay damages.
When asked directly if that would include the Cumberbatch clan, he responded: “This is at the earliest stages. We are just beginning. A lot of this history is only really now coming to light.”
Benedict Cumberbatch himself has expressed contrition for his own family’s links to slavery, suggesting it was the reason why he took the role of William Pitt the Younger in the film Amazing Grace which focused on the abolition of the trade.
He also received critical acclaim for his leading role as plantation owner William Ford in 12 Years a Slave more than a decade ago.