Duchess of Cornwall launches new Reading Room club for book lovers

The Duchess of Cornwall Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A photograph of the Duchess of Cornwall has been released to mark a new project she is spearheading to create an online haven for literature lovers.

Camilla, who is an avid reader, hopes to encourage book fans of all ages to discover new writers and create a hub where literary communities across the globe can connect.

The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room will be launched on January 15 on Instagram, with Camilla recommending four books for the inaugural winter season.

She has been supported by Charlie Mackesy, author and illustrator of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse, which has caught the imagination of many during the pandemic.

After hearing about the project in its early stages, Mackesy wrote to Camilla to offer his help in a handwritten letter featuring his signature drawings.

They chatted by video call and Camilla praised his popular book, saying: “Had you any idea quite what a success your book was going to be? I mean, it’s phenomenal.

“Everywhere you go (I) see your book just sitting (there). It doesn’t matter what bookshop, where you go. I’ve got so many copies of it – with people saying ‘you must read this book’ – I could make a library of it!”

The author said: “It’s not for children, it’s not for… it’s for everyone, and I did think… people won’t like it, because there aren’t enough words, or there aren’t enough pictures… the answer to the question is… I still am really surprised, and really moved by… what happened.”

Camilla chats to author and illustrator Charlie Mackesy Credit: Clarence House/PA

In the new portrait image, Camilla is captured smiling as she stands by a window in the Garden Room at Clarence House while wearing a red wool coatdress by Fiona Clare, with her right hand resting on a pile of books.

The photographer was Hugo Burnand who took wedding pictures for the Prince of Wales and Camilla in 2005 and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

Charles also asked the photographer to take the birthday image to mark his 60th year in 2008 and he has taken a previous portrait picture of the duchess.

She was encouraged to create her online reading room after a positive response to her reading lists published at Easter and during the summer.

Books chosen by Camilla ranged from the modern fantasy novel The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, which she called “storytelling at its best”, to A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

Charlie Mackesy rote to Camilla in support of her project Credit: Charlie Mackesy/PA

Travels On My Elephant by Mark Shand, the duchess’s late brother, was also picked and, speaking in April, she said: “Ernest Hemingway, famously, once said, ‘There is no friend as loyal as a book’.

“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.”

The duchess holds seven patronages related to literature, including the National Literacy Trust, and has presented the prestigious Booker Prize for a number of years.

Information relating to the books and their authors, alongside content from the duchess, will be posted in the weeks following the publication of the first list.

New titles will be added in seasonal releases with the second list expected in the spring.

The duchess is interested in writers from the Commonwealth and as the project develops authors from the “family of nations” will feature prominently in the Reading Room.