Duchess of Cornwall jokes 2020 has been 'a bit of a cactus' but says books brought escape

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read
The duchess said this year had been 'a bit of a cactus'. (Clarence House)
The duchess said this year had been 'a bit of a cactus'. (Clarence House)

The Duchess of Cornwall has praised books for bringing the power to escape as she dubbed 2020 “a bit of a cactus”.

Camilla, 72, gave a speech as part of the Booker Prize ceremony, which was streamed on BBC iPlayer on Thursday evening.

The royal quoted one of her favourite authors, Enid Bagnold, who once spoke about her desire to write, and said it would “make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus”.

The duchess said: “For many people, this year has been a bit of a cactus (if the cactus-lovers among you will forgive me).

“But, as Enid says, writers have the power to turn a cactus into a great flower. While COVID deprived us of so many cultural pleasures – live music, theatre, cinema, art galleries, even being together in the flesh this evening – we have, at least, been able to read.

“And as long as we can read, we can travel, we can escape, we can explore, we can laugh, we can cry and we can grapple with life’s mysteries.”

BREAM, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets members of the 'Lego Club' which is designed to encourage children to read during a visit to the Bream Community Library on May 24, 2018 in Bream, Lydney, Gloucestsershire, England. (Photo by Stephen Shepherd - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cornwall at the 'Lego Club' at the Bream Community Library in 2018. She is passionate about literacy and reading. (Stephen Shepherd - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Camilla, who works with many literacy charities and has previously expressed her love of reading, said books had also brought a sense of community during a tough year.

She said: “For all these reasons, this year’s Booker Prize is even more important than usual. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the richness of English-language literature.

“It allows us to give thanks for the transformative power of books, which change cacti into flowers. It demonstrates the vastness, and closeness, of the literary community.

“Above all, it celebrates wonderful writers who share their gifts to strengthen, provoke, move and comfort their readers.”

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 15: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wears a poppy-themed face mask while visiting the Neue Wache memorial to victims of war and tyranny with Prince Charles (not seen) on November 15, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. The British royal couple are in Berlin to attend events today on Germany's National Day of Mourning that commemorates victims of war and fascism. Prince Charles is set to give a speech at the Bundestag later. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wears a poppy-themed face mask while visiting the Neue Wache memorial in Berlin. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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The Duchess of Cornwall has supported the Booker Prize every year since 2013 and presented the award to winner Anna Burns in 2018. Last year she had the joint winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo over for tea at Clarence House.

Authors up for the £50,000 prize on Thursday included Avni Doshi for Burnt Sugar and Maaza Mengiste for The Shadow King.

Barack Obama, former US president, will also make an appearance during the ceremony.

The Duchess and her husband, Prince Charles, paid a visit to Berlin over the weekend, becoming the first British royals to take part in the German day of remembrance.

The couple spent time in Scotland during the first UK lockdown, but came back to their English homes in the summer. It’s understood they are spending most of their time in their homes at Highgrove and Ray Mill House, in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire respectively.

They travel to London to conduct engagements when possible, though follow national government guidelines on essential journeys.

Watch: Charles and Camilla attend Mourning Day in Berlin