Camilla giggles at story she’s ‘never heard before’ about late Queen and Margaret Thatcher meeting as she praises ‘wonderful and brilliant’ winners of her essay competition
- Camilla said it had brought ‘communities across the Commonwealth closer’
- READ MORE: Queen Camilla meets with female leaders from Commonwealth
Queen Camilla today praised the ‘wonderful and quite brilliant’ winners of the world’s oldest writing competition, the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition today, and she was left in stitches when host and Royal Commonwealth Society Ambassador Gyles Brandreth told her a story about Queen Elizabeth and former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher that she confessed she had never heard before.
Addressing the room full of winners past and present, as well as stars of stage, screen and the literary world, Brandreth said: ‘Margaret Thatcher, our first woman Prime Minister, came to Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth II and she was taken into the room where she was going to meet the Queen for the first time.
‘The equerry who told me this story said as he walked her down the corridor to meet Her Majesty he told her ‘Prime Minister, a curtsey is not obligatory but if you have it mind of course you can curtsey’. And she said ‘Of course, I’ve been practising!’
‘They went into the room and the equerry said ‘You Majesty, the Prime Minister. Your Majesty’ and he stepped back. At which point Margaret Thatcher executed the most perfect curtsey, a really graceful curtsey. Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, went right down to the ground with her curtsey, right down to the ground…..where she stayed.
‘She then threw a desperate glance towards the equerry who eagerly trotted back [but] couldn’t get her up single-handed. So Queen Elizabeth II took the other side…’ At this Queen Camilla burst into laugher and rolled her eyes upwards in mock horror.
Camilla speaks with Akshata Murty (centre) and Dr Linda Yueh (left) as she hosts a reception at Buckingham Palace
During her speech, avid reader Camilla described how Queen Victoria was also a ‘passionate lover of literature’
Camilla talks with Linda Yueh during a reception for the winners of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition
Gyles Brandreth told her a story about Queen Elizabeth and former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher that she confessed she had never heard before. Pictured: The pair in Zambia for the Commonwealth conference of 1979
‘It’s a good story,’ laughed Brandreth, and she assured him that she had never heard it before.
Brandreth added more seriously: ‘You come here today and you leave thinking there is actually hope for the world. The number of entrants this year has been greater than ever and does make an impact on people’s lives. ‘
The Queen, wearing a black Anna Valentine dress with cream stitching and joined by the Prime Minister’s wife Akshata Murty, herself told guests that that it was a ‘huge pleasure’ to welcome them to Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Competition’s 140th birthday.
The 140-year-old contest, which is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools, has ‘given young people the opportunity to express themselves on the issues that matter most’, she said.
This year’s participants, aged between 11 and 17 from India and Malaysia, were asked to write on the subject of ‘a youth-powered Commonwealth’ – with extracts from the winners’ essays read out at the palace by literary figures and actors including Dame Joanna Lumley, Sir Ben Okri and Sanjeev Bhaskar.
During her speech, avid reader Camilla described how Queen Victoria was also a ‘passionate lover of literature’.
‘She was particularly fond of the works of many authors, including Jane Austen, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Lewis Carroll,’ the Queen said.
‘Legend has it that, having admired Alice In Wonderland, the Queen wrote to Lewis Carroll to request first editions of any of his other books
Queen Camilla talks with Akshata Murty, wife of PM Rishi Sunak, during a reception for the winners of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition
Camilla pictured with Mitali Ragtah, 11, from New Delhi, India, who was the junior runner up
‘By return of post she received a copy of his Syllabus Of Plane Algebraic Geometry. Probably not what she was after.’
Praising the entrants, Camilla said: ‘Well done to each and every one of you, you are quite brilliant and I have, as ever, enormously enjoyed reading your entries.’
The winners of this year’s competition were Siddhi Deshmukh, senior winner, 17, Mumbai, India; Shreeya Sahi, junior winner, 12, Panchkula, India; Yong Sin Kong, senior runner-up, 15, Johor, Malaysia; and Mitali Ragtah, junior runner-up, 11, New Delhi, India.
The Queen’s appearance comes after she met with women leaders from across the Commonwealth at an event dedicated to addressing domestic violence on Wednesday.
Camilla said it was ‘so important’ for her to attend the event at Marlborough House, London – which was focused on safeguarding women and children from domestic violence.
The royal, who looked typically sophisticated in an dark green dress with heeled boots, was greeted by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland, as she arrived at the headquarters of the Commonwealth in central London.
Camilla is pictured with Gyles Brandreth at the Commonwealth Essay reception held at Buckingham Palace
Camilla is seen with Dr Linda Yueh (left), Sanjeev Bhaskar (second right), and Dame Joanna Lumley (right)
Baroness Scotland said one in three women in the world will be affected by domece at some stage in their lives, adding that women were ‘disproportionately affected’ in every form of crisis.
She said that having the support of Camilla was ‘wonderful’, adding that the Queen had a ‘great care for people’.
Baroness Scotland, the first woman to serve as attorney general for England and Wales, said: ‘So many people would like to be silent, and it’s not necessarily a comfortable thing to talk about.
‘But Her Majesty has been absolutely adamant that she would be a spokesperson for all those women who think they have no voice.’
Camilla attended a reception of dignitaries which included the British-Ghanaian entrepreneur and actress Lady Dentaa Amoateng.
She also met the leaders of the Mirabel Centre, Nigeria’s first referral centre to provide free medical and psychosocial support to survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Itoro Eze-Anaba, the founder of the centre, said having the patronage of Camilla had ‘helped people to speak up’ as it brought ‘credibility’ to the centre.
She added that the centre had helped more than 8,200 survivors of rape and sexual assault – with the youngest of the centre’s clients being just three months old and the oldest 82 years old.
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