Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh herd sheep after freeman ceremony

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Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh have received the honour of “freemen” of the town of Stratford-upon-Avon.

The award-winning actors exercised their right to herd sheep along Sheep Street after they were bestowed with the title.

The pair, who were visiting the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, were pictured laughing with the mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon, Kevin Taylor, after he presented them with the award.

Shakespeare’s birthday celebration
Dame Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh visit Stratford-upon-Avon, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, to receive the honour of “freemen” of the town (Fabio De Paola/PA)

The certificate, which grants them honorary freedom of the town, reads: “In recognition of eminent services to the world of theatre and to the works of William Shakespeare.”

The decision to grant Dame Judi and Sir Kenneth the honour was taken at a special council meeting on February 22.

During the meeting, the mayor said Sir Kenneth first appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Henry V and later starred in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Hamlet while, in 2001, The Shakespeare Institute made him an honorary doctor of literature.

Shakespeare’s birthday celebration
The certificate (Fabio De Paola/PA)

He also directed and starred as Shakespeare in the film All Is True alongside Dame Judi and Sir Ian McKellen.

Dame Judi won an Oscar for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love and has been awarded the freedom of York and London.

The historic origins of the honour of freeman can be traced back to the 12th and 13th century and is bestowed upon “persons of distinction” and those who have “rendered eminent services to the council’s area”.

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