The Duchess of Cornwall has made a cameo appearance in a new campaign … but not in the way you might think.
Camilla has been transformed into an animated character to help launch ‘500 Words’, a BBC literary initiative for youngsters aged between five and 13.
Drawn with her trademark flicked blonde hair, a pearl choker and earrings, the 68-year-old royal is easily recognisable and smiles widely as she asks the audience: “So, what story are you going to write?” The 50-second clip, narrated by BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans, offers listeners a rare snippet of Camilla’s husky voice. The Duchess seldom speaks in front of cameras and is known for her reticent approach to interviews.
The film reveals that the royal is an honorary judge of this year’s competition, which is expected to see thousands of entires from across the country.
The initiative was thought up by Evans in 2011 and has grown exponentially since. The nationwide competition is one of the most successful creative writing events in the world and has seen over half a million children write a short story, amassing an impressive 215 million words since its beginning.
Last year, Camilla attended the final of the contest, held at St James’s Palace. The winning stories, selected from over 120,000 submissions, were read by award-winning actors Sir Kenneth Branagh, Jeremy Irons, Charles Dance and Eleanor Tomlinson.
This year’s final is expected to be an even more spectacular event. Held live on 27 May at Shakespeare’s iconic Globe Theatre, it will help form celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare, one of Britain’s greatest storytellers. The Duchess is expected to attend alongside the panel of authors including Malorie Blackman, Charlie Higson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Francesca Simon.
Entries must be received by February 25 and can be submitted on the BBC’s website. Every child will be entered into a ballot to attend the final alongside the winners and, as the competition’s name suggests, submissions must be no longer than 500 words.
The competition has two age categories, five to nine years and 10 to 13 years, and there are bronze, silver and gold prizes in each category.
Speaking of the contest, Evans said: “Myself and the whole 500 WORDS team at BBC Radio 2 are hugely proud and honoured to welcome The Duchess of Cornwall as an Honorary Judge for the competition.”
The BBC presenter also praised the animation work, saying: “It’s fantastic fun seeing myself in cartoon form AND I’m in the most gracious company imaginable, as none other than The Duchess of Cornwall agreed to be animated too – for the first time ever.”
Camilla is a keen supporter of literary at all levels and ages and has been involved in a number of projects in recent years. She is the Patron of several organisations which promote and support literacy including the National Literacy Trust, Book Trust, First Story, the Wicked Young Writer Awards and Beanstalk.
Last year, she made a visit to HMP Coldingley in Woking where she met prisoners working to improve their reading writing skills in the prison library. 48% of prisoners have literacy skills at or below Level 1 (equal to that expected of an 11-year old) and 65% have numeracy skills at or below the same level.
Speaking of The Duchess’s appearance in the latest animation, a Clarence House spokesperson said: “The Duchess is a passionate supporter of literacy and BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition.
“Her Royal Highness agreed to appear in the animation as she felt it was an engaging way to encourage children to enter the competition and have a go at writing their own stories.”