Benedict Cumberbatch Could Face Barbados' Reparations Claim

Benedict Cumberbatch Could Face Barbados' Reparations Claim

Benedict Cumberbatch and his family could soon face demands for reparations from the nation of Barbados for being descendants of 18th century slave owners.

In 1728, Cumberbatch’s ancestor purchased a plantation to grow sugar in the north of the island. The plantation was once home to more than 250 slaves and was held by the family for nearly a century, during which they amassed their fortune. Following the abolition of slavery in 1834, the British government awarded former slave owners financial compensation.

Now, after breaking free of British control to become a republic in 2021, the Caribbean country has begun the process of seeking financial reparations from families of former plantation and slave owners. A new national commission for reparations is in early stages of seeking approval to pursue these claims.

Cumberbatch has previously addressed his family’s slave-owning past, once noting that his mother urged him not use his real surname as an actor. The 46-year-old Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness actor has also revealed that this generational guilt is part of his motivation to take on films dealing with slavery — such as Amazing Grace and12 Years a Slave.

The Cumberbatch clan is not the only high-profile British family that could go under the magnifying glass: conservative British Parliament member Richard Drax, who inherited the largest plantation on the island, Drax Hall, has already faced demands to return the property to Barbados.

The general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, David Denny told the Telegraph, “Any descendants of white plantation owners who have benefitted from the slave trade should be asked to pay reparations, including the Cumberbatch family.”

Photo by Lia Toby / Getty Images for BFI