Prince William and his wife Kate have refused to join the movement to pardon gay men who were criminalised in the UK for being gay, despite a huge campaign led by Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry.

The campaign is seeking the pardon of around 49,000 men who were prosecuted for their sexuality, a crime that was highlighted in the blockbuster film, The Imitation Game, starring Cumberbatch, who portrayed Alan Turing. Alan Turing was a computer scientist who in World War II cracked the infamous enigma code, which helped to bring about a swifter end to the war against the Nazis. Sir Winston Churchill described the code breaker as having “made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory in the Second World War”.

Around 15,000 men are still estimated to be alive.

Within years of this great achievement, Turing was convicted of Gross Indecency, and his punishment was to be chemically castrated. Within two years he had committed suicide.

In 2009, Gordon Brown posthumously pardoned Turing with an “unequivocal apology”. Four years later the Queen granted a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. Campaigners are asking that pardons like these be extended to all men who were charged and convicted of these homophobic laws.

In a letter to the Government, which was published in the Guardian, campaigners called for royal family to add their support to the cause, saying,

“The UK’s homophobic laws made the lives of generations of gay and bisexual men intolerable.

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“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.”

A spokesman for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said the issue was a matter for the government and they would not make any public comment on it.