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State & Ceremonial

Professor Mary Beard offers to teach the Cambridge children Latin as she collects damehood from Buckingham Palace

Professor Mary Beard collected her damehood from Buckingham Palace on Friday at an investiture hosted by the Duke of Cambridge.

As she collected her honour, Dame Mary told Prince William that she would be happy to teach Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis Latin.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Dame Mary said: “I hope he was listening. Of course, he was very polite and said, ‘I’ll have to get you to teach them’, and I said, ‘Anything!”

Professor Beard continued: “It’s important to learn where we’ve been and where we’ve come from, and for people to have access to some of the most extraordinary and influential literature in world culture.

“That kind of direct connection with something so influential written so long ago is, I think, terribly important.”

Professor Dame Mary Beard is a Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge and became a dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to classical scholarship.

Dame Mary is also a seasoned broadcaster and has presented numerous programmes for the BBC.

Despite collecting her honour from the Palace on Friday, Professor Beard has not always agreed with what the honours system stands for.

She said: “Had somebody said to me at 23 that I would accept a damehood of the British empire, I would have said: ‘Sorry, sunshine, that’s not what my politics is all about’.

“But I’ve grown older and wiser, and I think that it does seem an odd title — a mixture of pantomime, because dames cart around the stage, don’t they? — and we don’t have an empire any longer.

“That makes it quaint, charming, and doesn’t have those bits of politics attached to it.”