Is your last name Somerset, Neville, Plantagenet, Ibsen, Constable, Babthorpe,Cholmley, Slingsby, Bellasis, Talbot, Yelverton, Calthorpe, Gough, Spooner, Neale, Frere, Stokes or even Brown?

Then Pop-up Globe wants to hear from you because you could be distantly related to one of the most infamous monarchs in English history.

The theatre company, now staging Shakespeare's Richard III, is searching for living relatives of the king who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 after just two years on the English throne.

Artistic director Dr Miles Gregory says those who can produce proof of bona fide genealogical research, such as a family tree, might be in line for complimentary tickets, a backstage tour and meeting the cast and company.

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But Pop-up Globe could be in for more than it bargained for - Richard is thought to have as many as 17 million living relatives in the UK alone. They include actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who is Richard III's second cousin 16 times removed.

There are also New Zealand connections to the ruler. NZ-born Londoner Wendy Duldig, whose great-great and great grandmothers emigrated here in the 1870s, is Richard's niece 18 times removed. Her DNA was used by Leicester University to help identify Richard III when his bones were unearthed during an archaeological dig.

That dig was commissioned by the Richard III Society following centuries of rumours about the whereabouts of the king's corpse after it was taken from the battlefield to Greyfriars Friary in Leicester and buried in a rudimentary grave.

The Friary was dissolved in 1538 and later demolished; by the time of the 2012 dig, the site was a Leicester City Council carpark. Archaelogists discovered a human skeleton of a man in his 30s with signs of serious injuries. When preliminary tests showed the bones more than likely belonged to Richard III, Leicester University's Dr Turi King eventually matched DNA from the remains with that of descendants.

King told the Herald on Sunday it was luck such old remains had any DNA left to extract, but it would have been worthless without a known relative to compare it to.

Considered to be the last of the Plantagenets, Richard had no surviving children of his own but an illegitimate line of the dynasty survives today, represented by David Somerset, 11th Duke of Beaufort.

King receives regular emails from people around the world wanting confirmation that they're related to Richard III.

"It's something of huge interest to people."

She says Pop-up Globe might be spared too many visits by relatives because very few people can trace their ancestry back much past the 1700s.

"The paper trail tends to run out," she says. "The only reason we found Wendy ... was because they are descended from noble families of whom we have records of."

Rob Smith, secretary of the Richard III Society's NZ branch, said several of its 40 members could trace a link to the king whose notorious reputation owes much to Shakespeare's 1593 play. In it, Richard is portrayed as a ruthless despot who manipulated his way to power and ordered his nephews – "the princes in the tower" – murdered.

"But there's not a shred of evidence," said Smith. "We believe the bad reputation he got was down to Tudor propaganda and then Shakespeare's play."

Richard III runs until the beginning of February. For more, go to popupglobe.co.nz.