The Duchess of Cornwall said Queen Elizabeth I was the woman from history she would most like to join her at an evening book club, saying she would have “good one-liners”.
Literary campaigner Camilla’s other dream historical book club guests include “maybe Jane Austen” and a “couple of Bronte sisters”, she told people at a history festival on Monday.
Camilla was speaking after she introduced the first event of the Chalke Valley History Festival, in Broad Chalke, near Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Camilla, 74, ate an ice cream at the event, sold to her from a van which had Duchess of Swirl emblazoned on it.
Asked who she would pick if she could summon any woman from history to join her at an evening book club, Camilla said: “I would suggest Elizabeth I because I thought she would be a very good reader, she would come out with some very good one-liners, also she was incredibly well-educated, she spoke five languages.”
Camilla opened the festival and introduced the Rediscovering Women in History event, a discussion between novelist Philippa Gregory and historian and author Alison Weir.
Camilla, who was wearing a green print dress by Fiona Clare, said it was a “huge pleasure” to be at the festival, adding: “Since 2012 you have more than surpassed your aim to ‘excite, enthral and entertain about the past’, and in doing so you have become the largest festival in the world dedicated solely to history.
“Not bad for an event whose original intention was rather more modest, to raise funds for the local cricket club.”
She added: “I am biased, I know, but I think that in Wiltshire we are especially blessed with our history or perhaps I should say, we are fortunate to be surrounded by an abundance of ghosts.
“As Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir could tell us, Jane Seymour was born not far from here, as were Sir Christopher Wren and Malmesbury barmaid Hannah Twynnoy, who has the dubious distinction of being the first person in Britain to be killed by a tiger, in 1703.
“To quote Alison, it is people who make history.”
Jane Seymour was King Henry VIII’s third wife, while Sir Christopher was the architect who designed St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Avid reader Camilla has championed literacy in the UK, visiting schools, libraries, workplace-reading schemes and prisons.
He patronages include the National Literacy Trust, First Story, Coram Beanstalk and BookTrust.
During lockdown in 2020 she published a list of her nine favourite book recommendations over the Easter weekend, and shared five more.
In January 2021, The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room Instagram account was launched – a community space for book lovers to visit, featuring videos, photographs and commentary from some of Camilla’s recommended authors.
The festival will run from June 20-26.