Duchess of Cornwall dubs herself 'ancient fairy godmother' of children's writing competition

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
The Duchess of Cornwall at Birkhall in Scotland, inside a Wendy House originally built on the estate in 1935 for the then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. (Clarence House)

The Duchess of Cornwall dubbed herself the “ancient fairy godmother” as she helped announce the winners of a short story competition for children.

Camilla, 72, thanked entrants for staying at home during the coronavirus lockdown as she expressed her sadness that they weren’t being welcomed to Buckingham Palace.

The duchess joined BBC Radio 2 to mark the 10th anniversary of their 500 Words short story competition, and praised the “talents” of the young entrants.

Camilla said: “I was really looking forward to meeting the finalists at Buckingham Palace today.

“But, thankfully, technology has brought us together across the airwaves – and we will still celebrate as hard as we can.

“But just before we get to celebrating, I want to say something a bit serious. The last few months have been very difficult, confusing and worrying for lots of you.

“Thank you for staying at home, being kind to others and cheering up your family and friends whenever you could. You have been brilliant.”

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Chris Evans in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang during the 2018 competition. (Getty Images)

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The competition was started by Chris Evans, who remains the chairman, and runs on the Zoe Ball breakfast show. The winners were chosen from a final selection of 56 stories, with the duchess and Evans joined by award-winning authors Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Charlie Higson and Francesca Simon, as well as Ball to judge them.

Camilla said a squirrel, which appeared on screen during her video, had been “very helpful” to the judging deliberations.

The message was recorded from a Wendy house on the Birkhall estate in Scotland, which was built on the estate in 1935 for the then Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret.

She went on to say: “In its 10 years, 500 Words has received a staggering million-plus entries.

“And it hasn’t just got children excited about reading and writing – lots of grown-ups have got very excited too.

“Including me, the competition’s rather ancient fairy godmother!

“Now this year, we may have been confined to our homes, but nobody can confine imagination.

Zoe Ball, Chris Evans and Camilla at the final in Windsor Castle in 2019. (Getty Images)

“Once again, I have been blown away by your genius and creativity.

“In fact, you reminded me of a wonderful quotation from Beatrix Potter: ‘There’s something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you’.

“For me, there was something delicious about reading the beginnings of all your stories. I could never quite tell exactly where I would end up – but I had a wonderful time getting there!”

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The six winning short tales were read during the show on Radio 2 by celebrities including Jodie Whittaker, Dua Lipa and Joanna Lumley and the winners and finalists had a video call party.

There were almost 135,000 entries this year, in what has been announced will be the final year of the competition.