Queen Consort Camilla has paid tribute to her "dear mother-in-law".
The 75-year-old royal spoke of Queen Elizabeth's "enduring love" for the Commonwealth in her first speech since the monarch died in September and said the messages of condolence that she and her husband King Charles had received had helped to "heal, reassure and offer hope".
Speaking at a Buckingham Palace reception for the winners of the Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition - of which she is vice patron - Camilla said: “I cannot begin without paying tribute to my dear mother-in-law, Her late Majesty, who is much in our thoughts today and who is so greatly missed by us all.
“She had been patron of the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1952 and throughout her remarkable reign, its vision to improve the lives and prospects of all Commonwealth citizens remained, as you know, very close to her heart.
"It was on this date, Nov 17, that Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne, in 1558. She once said of herself that, while she was aware of the merits of the monarchs who had preceded her, ‘you never had any that will love you better’.
“A description that might just as well apply to Queen Elizabeth II and her enduring love for the Commonwealth.”
Camilla paid tribute to the power of the written word as she reflected on both the competition and the messages of condolence.
She continued: “Over the past few months, my husband and I have drawn immense comfort from the messages of condolence that we have received, and continue to receive, from the four corners of the world.
“They have reminded us that the written word has a unique ability to connect, to heal, to reassure and to offer hope, even in the midst of grief.”
The queen consort told how many entrants to the competition, which had the theme Our Commonwealth, had reflected on the queen in essays of inspirational leadership, while Nelson Mandela was also a popular topic.
Hailing the late anti-apartheid activist as a man who "understood the power of his language" and wrote speeches and letters from prison which would "change his country, his continent and the globe forever", Camilla added: “Mandela was a great writer.
“He was also described as ‘a man of the Commonwealth’, famously saying on entering Marlborough House: ‘The Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity.’ The Commonwealth, like writing, touches the whole world.
“All of us are bound together by a profound appreciation of the written word and of our Commonwealth. This wonderful, extraordinary, richly diverse association of independent and equal nations, and friends, is, truly, 'ours', belonging to each one of us, and the connections between us run deep.”
The royal ended her speech with a quote from the former South African president: “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up”.
Royal Commonwealth Society ambassadors Ben Okri, Alexandra Burke, Geri Horner and Ayesha Dharker then read extracts from the winning entries.
Sawooly Li, a 17-year-old student from New Zealand won the senior category, while 14-year-old Australian Madeleine Wood topped the junior essays.
Runners-up were Amaal Fawzi, a 17-year-old Egyptian who now lives in London, and Maulika Pandey, 13, from India.