Actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s quest for a royal pardon for 49,000 British men who were persecuted in the 1950s for being gay, has been rejected by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Cumberbatch and comedian Stephen Fry both signed an open letter calling for the “young leaders” to support the Pardon49k petition. But on Saturday Prince William and Kate Middleton reportedly refused to get behind the issue, reports the Independent.
A spokesman for the royals said the issue is a government matter and they would be making no public comments.
In 2013 Queen Elizabeth II pardoned Alan Turing, a mathematician who famously broke the Nazi Enigma code during WWII. After the war, he was prosecuted for homosexual acts, and forced to undergo chemical castration in 1952.
Cumberbatch, who portrayed Turing in The Imitation Game, and Fry had hoped support for the petition from the royals would help to posthumously absolve other men who were similarly convicted under the country’s old homosexuality laws.
Their letter to the government partially reads:
The UK’s homophobic laws made the lives of generations of gay and bisexual men intolerable.
It is up to young leaders of today including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to acknowledge this mark on our history and not allow it to stand.
We call upon Her Majesty’s Government to begin a discussion about the possibility of a pardoning all the men, alive or deceased, who like Alan Turing, were convicted.
Cumberbatch recently told the Hollywood Reporter, “Alan Turing was not only prosecuted, but quite arguably persuaded to end his own life early, by a society who called him a criminal for simply seeking out the love he deserved, as all human beings do.”
Sixty years later, that same government claimed to ‘forgive’ him by pardoning him. I find this deplorable, because Turing’s actions did not warrant forgiveness, theirs did, and the 49,000 other prosecuted men deserve the same.
Fry has said of the other gay men who suffered the same treatment, “There is a feeling that perhaps if he should be pardoned, then perhaps so should all of those men, whose names were ruined in their lifetime, but who still have families.”
Fry has also announced a campaign to put Turing on the £10 note, according to the Belfast Telegraph.