The Queen has joked that writing a miniature book for the centenary celebrations of the world’s most famous dolls’ house affected her eyesight.
Camilla created a tiny manuscript for the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, as did some of the nation’s best-loved writers, from Sir Tom Stoppard and Dame Jacqueline Wilson to Sir Ben Okri and Alan Bennett.
The King’s consort stood by her husband’s side on Monday as he left hospital following treatment for an enlarged prostate and a day later was all smiles during a Windsor Castle reception to thank those involved in the project.
She praised the gathered writers, binders and illustrators for contributing to the “fantastic” initiative and told them: “As a child, seeing the dolls’ house for the first time, I was always fascinated by the books.
“The idea of actually seeing these important writers, actually seeing their writing, was huge excitement – thinking that was written by Conan Doyle, whoever.
“And I know the future generations are going to feel the same about all of you. They are going to look at these books and say ‘Goodness, how wonderful’. It’s wonderful to see Alan Bennett or Tom Stoppard, to see their writing.”
She made her guests laugh when she quipped: “I hope your eyesight hasn’t deteriorated that much – certainly mine did.”
Bennett, Stoppard and Okri were among those attending, alongside many of the craftspeople who created the bindings for the books.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House was completed in 1924 for King George V’s consort as a gift from the nation after the First World War.
It features a library reflecting tastes from the 1920s, but the 20 new manuscripts update the collection with short stories, poetry collections, illustrated tales, plays, articles and recipes, many inspired by the dolls’ house or written specially for the occasion.
Already on the shelves of the dolls’ house are the miniature works of more than 170 of the early 20th century’s foremost authors, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vita Sackville-West, AA Milne, Thomas Hardy and Aldous Huxley.
Some, such as Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw, refused the request.
The Queen was given a guided tour of the scaled down home before the reception and marvelled at the tiny fixtures, fittings and furniture.
Camilla’s small book contained a foreword to the project, celebrating the new additions to the miniature library and she saw it bound for the first time during the reception when it was presented to her before going on display with the other new works.
The Queen says in her miniature manuscript: “These new books highlight the incredible richness of 21st century literary talent – and demonstrate how fortunate we are to have access to so many outstanding writers, whose work brings joy, comfort, laughter, companionship and hope to us all, opening our eyes to others’ experiences and reminding us that we are not alone.”
Author Dame Jacqueline Wilson wrote a story called The House Mouse about a mouse that squeezes into the doll’s house. She described the process as “nerve-wracking” but “enjoyable”.
Dame Jacqueline added: “My dad brought me here when I was about seven and I loved the dolls’ house. And the thing I liked the best, because I was a bookworm even then, were the tiny books.
“And to feel that now I’ve actually been asked to write a book that will be a part of that whole dolls’ house, is just magnificent.”