Camilla welcomes leading writers in celebration of Scottish literacy

The Queen hosted the cream of Scottish literary life when she welcomed writers, publishers and booksellers to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Crime authors Sir Ian Rankin and Val McDermid and newly-knighted Sir Alexander McCall Smith, creator of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, were among Camilla’s guests as she celebrated those promoting Scottish literacy.

King visit to Scotland for Holyrood Week
Camilla speaks with crime writer Val McDermid (left) as Sir Ian Rankin (centre, rear) looks on (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The Queen is an avid reader and patron of a number of literary organisations, and her Reading Room project, launched during lockdown, has grown into a major initiative which now has a podcast attracting leading writers and a literary festival in its second year.

She gathered the group associated with literature as she began her official stay in Scotland with the King, known as Holyrood Week, shorter this year because of General Election restrictions.

Sir Ian praised Camilla after chatting to her, saying: “She’s really interested in literacy. She wants young people reading, she wants everybody reading. There’s no stigma attached to writing, If you write comic books, if you write romance, if you write crime fiction, she’s a fan – anything that gets people reading.”

King visit to Scotland for Holyrood Week
Twelve-year-old Alex Bannan (centre), performs a Shakespeare-inspired monologue for the Queen (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Commenting on Edinburgh’s literary heritage, he added: “It’s always been a literary city and it’s always been a city that’s inspired writers. Everybody from Robert Louis Stevenson to Muriel Spark and to Irvin Welsh have been influenced by the city.

“And although it’s a very small city, it’s like Doctor Who’s Tardis – it’s much bigger on the inside because it has all these different versions of itself in there, waiting to be explored by writers of various hues.”

The Queen spent time chatting to her guests and even heard a Shakespeare-inspired monologue from 12-year-old schoolgirl Alyx Bannan who delivered a piece she had written about Hamlet.

King visit to Scotland for Holyrood Week
Camilla listens as broadcaster Allan Little (right) speaks at a celebration at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh for those who promote Scottish literacy (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Broadcaster Allan Little, who is chairman of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, gave a speech and told Camilla: “I went on the website of the Queen’s Reading Room and, on behalf of the community gathered here today, I want to say a huge thank you for your infectiously enthusiastic bookishness – we value it greatly.

“Thank you for all you do to champion the written word, the habit of reading.

“And you describe how you fell in love with reading as a child and you describe that as a great adventure, and everyone in this room sees our lives as readers as a great adventure.”