Camilla gave her first official speech as Queen consort at a reception at Buckingham Palace for the winners of the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition on Thursday.
Camilla began her speech by paying tribute to the Queen, who had been patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1952.
She said: “Over the past few months, my husband and I have taken immense comfort from the messages of condolence we have received and continue to receive from all corners of the world.
“They reminded us that the written word has a unique ability to connect, heal, reassure and offer hope, even in the midst of grief.”
Camilla, who became the company’s vice president in 2018, added: “We are all connected by a deep appreciation for the written word and our Commonwealth.
“This wondrous, extraordinary and richly diverse association of independent and equal nations, and friends, is truly ‘ours’, belonging to each one of us, and the bonds between us run deep.”
She ended her speech with a quote from the late South African President Nelson Mandela, whom she described as a “great writer”, saying that “a winner is a dreamer who never gives up”.
A record 26,322 children took part in the 2022 competition, with winners and runners-up from New Zealand, Australia, the UK and India.
The senior winner was Sawooly Li, 17, from New Zealand. Ms Li said Camilla “was lovely” and spoke to all of the nominees individually, adding that the day had been “an amazing experience”.
Ms Li told the PA news agency: ‘You see Buckingham Palace on TV, but you never expect to come here yourself.
Junior winner Madeleine Wood, 14, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, said Camilla made all the winners “feel relaxed” before going on stage, adding that American novelist Donna Tartt was the one of his favorite authors.
Excerpts from the winning plays were read by Royal Commonwealth Society Ambassadors including Alexandra Burke, Ayesha Dharker, Geri Horner and Ben Okri.
Mr Okri, winner of the 1991 Booker Prize, said Camilla had “become our great literary queen consort”, before reading Ms Li’s winning text, Willow Trees and Waterholes.
Ms Horner, also known as Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls, recommended Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief to Camilla, who said she had it on her “reading board” for the Royal Reading Room.
Camilla also met three previous winners and finalists from 2020 and 2021, who were unable to attend the awards ceremonies due to Covid restrictions.
For 2022, the theme of the competition was Our Commonwealth, reflecting the Queen’s seven decades of service to the Commonwealth.
The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools.
It was founded in 1883 by the Royal Commonwealth Society to promote literacy, expression and creativity among young people across the Commonwealth.