The “Strange” Past of Benedict Cumberbatch

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Photo by Fat Les / CC BY

Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s a strange name with an even more strangely alluring man behind it.

Dubbed “The Internet’s Boyfriend,” Mr. Cumberbatch has legions of fans dedicated to Cumbergazing (a quick search of the hashtag #cumberwatch yields over 7,000 results).

The actor, who stole millions of hearts in his role of Sherlock on the BBC before becoming a major Hollywood star, is back in theaters as Dr. Strange.

In a nod to his latest role, as Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, here are 5 strange facts you probably didn’t know about Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Meaning of His Last Name

What does the name Cumberbatch mean??

We bet you’ve all wondered!

We did a quick search in our surnames definition database.


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And we discovered the name origin means the English actor most likely had a forebear from Comberbach in northern Cheshire once upon a time.

Eaton Hall, an estate in Cheshire, which is the same county where his ancestors were most likely from
Eaton Hall, an estate in Cheshire, the county where his ancestors were most likely from

His Great-Great-Grandfather Was a Tea Planter in India

Cumberbatch’s latest character, Stephen Strange, finds his mentor, the Ancient One, somewhere in the Himalayas.

If they filmed on site, Benedict might have been able to swing by the former homestead of his 2nd great-grandfather, John Paul Ferguson, who was a tea planter in Assam, India, in the late 19th and early 20th century.

He’s Related to Alan Turing

Not only did Cumberbatch play Turing in 2014’s The Imitation Game, he is actually a distant relative. Turing was a mathematician, a wizard with numbers so to speak, who played a crucial role in World War II.

Alan_Turing_Aged_16
Alan Turing at age 16. Art connects with life, as Benedict is related to him.

He devised a number of revolutionary techniques for breaking German codes. As a result, he was credited by Winston Churchill as “making the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war.”

His Cousin Is a Canadian Astronaut

Dr. Strange isn’t bound by such everyday laws as gravity, but that runs in Cumberbatch’s family, too.

He’s a sixth cousin to Canadian astronaut (and out-of-this-world rocker) Chris Hadfield.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield
Canadian Space Agency astronaut and cousin to Benedict, Chris Hadfield

He Has Royal Blood (via Richard III)

Strange’s quest for power isn’t unfamiliar to Cumberbatch DNA either, though his relatives haven’t always come out on the winning side. He recently appeared as King Richard III on The Hollow Crown.

Around the same time, Professor Kevin Schurer of the University of Leicester announced that Cumberbatch and Richard are third cousins 16 times removed.

Richard III of England
Richard III of England is Benedict’s distant cousin

While Cumberbatch has acknowledged the honor it is to be related to Turing, he joked with another reporter that his distant connection to Richard was “close enough for me.”

What Strange Things Are in Your Past?

Mr. Cumberbatch is definitely unique. But one thing we all share with him is that we all have unexpected stories in our past.

Discover your own family’s unexpected stories. Start by discovering the meaning of your last name.


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Or do a quick search of your ancestors with a free trial. Who knows, you may find a family connection to Mr. Cumberbatch!