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Duchess of Cornwall presents awards


The Duchess of Cornwall held a reception at Buckingham Palace on Thursday for the winners of the 2019 Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.

This year’s Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition was held under the theme of ‘A Connected Commonwealth, and “asked entrants to consider how they can work to use cultural, technological and environmental connections for positive change across the Commonwealth,” according to the Royal Commonwealth Society’s website.

“Topics invited young people to consider the potential of the Commonwealth in strengthening the vast and varied links between citizens.”

The winners, Catherine Wang, Nnemdi Ozoemena, Veronica Shen and Elise Jensen, met with Camilla to receive their certificates. Wang, from Canada, was the senior winner, while Ozoemana, from Nigeria, was the runner-up. Shen, from Singapore, was the junior winner, while Jensen, from Ghana, was the junior runner-up.

A fifth junior runner-up, Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa from Sri Lanka, was posthumously named after he was killed in a terrorist attack on Easter Sunday. His mother submitted his essay following his death.

Wang’s poem, about passersby who find a whale washed up on a beach, said about her win, “It was an emotional rollercoaster, with the cart slowly climbing in disbelief, only to suddenly become pure excitement upon the descent,” on the Essay’s website.

Shen’s poem, about “a girl growing up in China as it explores a complicated relationship with the country’s past,” won the junior division, and she said that it was a feeling of “surprise, elation” when she found out that she’d won.

Over 100 volunteer judges from across the Commonwealth, with 40 participating countries, read the entries and determined the winners.

In a speech at the reception, the Duchess of Cornwall said that over 11,000 entries were counted this year and that the 2020 competition will be announced in New Zealand in a few weeks.

Camilla continued:

“I am delighted to be helping to spread the word, and I am even more delighted that so many young people from across the Commonwealth are rising to the challenge of writing the word!  And the competition is challenging because it asks the young people who take part to write about subjects that require serious thought. The winning entries this year, for example, have addressed issues of gender equality, the environment and cultural heritage, and more besides. It’s challenging, but it is exciting, too, because it gives those who enter the opportunity to contribute poems, stories and scripts as well as traditional essays.”

Her full speech can be found here.

The Duchess has been the Vice-Patron of The Royal Commonwealth Society since 2018, though she has been involved with the organisation through its annual essay competition as Patron since 2014. The Queen is currently the Patron of The Royal Commonwealth Society.

The Royal Commonwealth Society was formed in 1868; while the essay competition was founded in 1883 – the oldest school writing competition in the world – and promotes “literacy, self-expression and creativity amongst young people throughout the Commonwealth.”

The Royal Commonwealth Society works to promote “the value and the values of the modern Commonwealth. We champion human rights, democracy and sustainable development through our international networks and across the 53 member states which are intrinsically linked through their common history and shared values” through youth empowerment, education and advocacy.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.