Literature

Duchess of Cornwall creates an online reading room to unite avid readers and discover new writers

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Camilla has already championed the cause of literacy, making it a cornerstone of her royal work.

Now the Duchess of Cornwall is following in the footsteps of TV couple Richard and Judy by setting up a book club.

Avid reader Camilla, 73, will unveil her new venture – a royal first – on Instagram this month with four recommended books she has chosen. 

The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room will be a ‘celebration of literature’ and, she hopes, a hub for literary communities around the world.

The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room will be a ‘celebration of literature’ and, she hopes, a hub for literary communities around the world

The titles in her first Winter Season are being kept under wraps until January 15. New books will be added each season.

She has previously highlighted favourite books by authors including William Boyd, Charles Dickens, Susan Hill and Philip Pullman. 

Camilla was inspired to set up the free initiative as a result of the phenomenal response to two suggested reading lists she published during lockdown. 

She also took heart from research which showed book sales soared by 400 per cent in the spring lockdown.

The royal decided to set up a more permanent platform to celebrate and explore literature from around the world with @duchessofcornwallsreadingroom and, say sources, has put her ‘heart and soul’ into the venture.

Each recommended book will be accompanied by exclusive content from the authors, as well as the royal herself, to spark conversation and debate. 

Charlie Mackesy, author and illustrator of best-seller The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, has leant his support to the project (pictured during a video call with the Duchess)

Charlie Mackesy, author and illustrator of best-seller The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, has leant his support to the project (pictured during a video call with the Duchess)

Author Charlie Mackesy penned a letter, complete with his signature drawings, to a delighted Camilla

Author Charlie Mackesy penned a letter, complete with his signature drawings, to a delighted Camilla

Since joining the Royal Family with her wedding to Prince Charles in 2005, Camilla has made the issue of literacy – particularly among children – central to her work and is patron of seven charities including the National Literacy Trust and First Story.

A royal source said Camilla hoped the new reading room will ‘encourage all ages and levels of reader to pick up a book – that it will spread awareness of the emotional, social and educational benefits of reading. But also, fundamentally, that it creates an opportunity for connection, engagement and discourse with and about authors and books around the world.

‘That is as important to her as recommending any particular title herself. Ultimately, though, her hope is that this should put more books into the hands of more people.’

Through the National Literacy Trust, the Reading Room has already linked up with libraries across the UK to ensure the featured titles are available free for as many people as possible. 

Camilla, who describes herself as a ‘voracious’ reader, said last year: ‘There is no friend as loyal as a book’ – a quote from US author Ernest Hemingway.

Camilla, pictured in January last year, at a library where she read to a group of school children as part of her work as a patron of the National Literacy Trust

Camilla, pictured in January last year, at a library where she read to a group of school children as part of her work as a patron of the National Literacy Trust

Launching her earlier reading lists, she said: ‘In these challenging times when we are isolated from the ones we love, many of us are finding comfort in reading, to fire up our imaginations, to take us on journeys and to make us laugh.’

Charlie Mackesy, author and illustrator of best-seller The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, has leant his support to the project, writing a letter, complete with his signature drawings, to a delighted Camilla.

In a video call between the two, excerpts of which are published today, Camilla said of Mackesy’s work: ‘It’s lovely. I adore it.’ 

At the height of the pandemic last Easter, the Duchess shared a reading list which included A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Travels On My Elephant by Mark Shand, which is about her late brother.

She followed up with her summer ‘must-reads’ which featured a selection of bestsellers across mystery, classics and contemporary works.

‘I am delighted to share a few more of my favourite books. At present, it might be ambitious to describe them as “beach reads”, but I very much hope they provide a welcome bit of escapism,’ Camilla said. 

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, Girl by Edna O’Brien, The Roy Grace series by Peter James, The Queen’s Necklace by Alexandra Dumas and The Island by Victoria Hislop all made the list. 

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