The Duchess of Cornwall at the Poetry Together event in London

This week, The Duchess of Cornwall has carried out a number of engagements with projects, which encourage people of all ages to get involved with the world of literacy. An avid reader herself, The Duchess is passionate about the importance of supporting children and adults alike to develop an interest in reading and writing.

On Tuesday, Her Royal Highness hosted a tea for the Booker Prize Foundation at Clarence House. The Booker Prize is recognised as the leading literary award in the English-speaking world bringing recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction. During the tea, The Duchess met Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, the newly announced joint-winners of the Booker Prize 2019. The Duchess has presented the award for the last six years and, during Tuesday’s reception, Her Royal Highness had the chance to meet Anna Burns, the 2018 Booker Prize winner, again.

Later in the day, The Duchess attended a reception for the Oscar Wilde Society, hosted by President Gyles Brandreth, at Grosvenor House. As well as many connections to the world of literacy, Her Royal Highness also has a personal link to Oscar Wilde. The Duchess’s great grandfather, Alexander Faulkner Shand, was for a while engaged to Constance Lloyd, who later went on to marry Oscar Wilde in 1884. The event is held annually each October to mark the Oscar Wilde’s birthday and to celebrate the author’s life and legacy. During Tuesday’s reception, actress Joanna Lumley read the sonnet Desespoir before The Duchess proposed a toast to Wilde’s memory.

Her Royal Highness said:

What is wonderful about Oscar is that his plays, his poetry, and his personality have all stood the test of time.  As we reach his 165th birthday we continue to be moved by his work and by his own story, and by the essence of his philosophy.  As he put it in De Profundis: “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”

On Wednesday, The Duchess attended an event at Eaton Square Upper School for the Poetry Together initiative. The scheme, led by broadcaster and poetry-lover Gyles Brandreth and Dukes Education, encourages schools to link with care homes – bringing young people and old people together to learn a poem by heart and perform it over tea. So far, 200 schools and elderly groups have signed up to participate, from every corner of the UK. At Wednesday’s event, five groups had the opportunity to perform for Her Royal Highness.

Following the performances, participants were invited to have tea and cake together. The initiative, which is supported by one of The Duchess’s patronages – The Silver Line, was inspired by research that shows learning poetry by heart has wonderful effects on the brain for people of all ages. 

To end the day, Her Royal Highness hosted a reception at Clarence House to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate, which is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer of illustrator of children’s books. Authors and illustrators, who have previously held the role, attended, alongside current Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, who wrote and illustrated the How To Train Your Dragon books.