Duchess of Cornwall poses with Gyles Brandreth as they launch the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast 


Duchess of Cornwall poses with Dame Joanna Lumley and Gyles Brandreth in Clarence House as they launch the first episode of the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast

  • Camilla welcomed Gyles Brandreth and Dame Joanna Lumley to Clarence House
  • Camilla named Christina Rossetti’s poem Echo as a favourite on the podcast
  • Chester University students produced it, where she has an honorary degree

The Duchess of Cornwall appeared in great spirits as she posed alongside Dame Joanna Lumley and Gyles Brandreth in photographs released today to mark the launch of the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast.

Camilla, 74, welcomed the TV personalities to Clarence House, with the group captured in the Garden Room at her London home while recording the first episode.

Two pictures of the Duchess, who said in the podcast that she believes learning poetry by heart can have life-long benefits for children, with the celebrities were posted on the official Clarence House’s Twitter account and on Instagram today. 

The Commonwealth Poetry Podcast, hosted by award-winning podcaster Gyles Brandreth and his daughter Aphra, will be released fortnightly in 54 half-hour episodes over the next two years, starting on Sunday.

With different guests in each episode, the podcast will explore the poetry, heritage and people of each of the 54 countries of the Commonwealth. Gyles said that having Camilla star in the first episode was ‘an absolute treat’.

Clarence House have shared behind-the-scene pictures taken at Clarence House to promote the Duchess of Cornwall's appearance in a new podcast. It showed Camilla, 74, with Gyles Brandreth, who is hosting the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast with his daughter Aphra and Dame Joanna Lumley

Clarence House have shared behind-the-scene pictures taken at Clarence House to promote the Duchess of Cornwall’s appearance in a new podcast. It showed Camilla, 74, with Gyles Brandreth, who is hosting the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast with his daughter Aphra and Dame Joanna Lumley

One snap shared online today showed the Duchess sat around a table with Gyles and his daughter Aphra, who will co-present the podcast’s episode, as well as Dame Joanna as they recorded the programme.  

Dressed in a floral blue gown, Camilla posed alongside her guests in a line-up in another behind-the-scenes snap.

During the first episode of the programme, Camilla talked about The Reading Room, which connects readers with books they are sure to love. 

She also talked about her travels around the Commonwealth, as well as her favourite British poets.

She also claimed the task of learning poetry by heart may help children concentrate. ‘If you have to learn something by heart you look at it properly and don’t just read through it,’ she said.

Dressed in a floral blue gown, Camilla posed alongside her guests in a line-up in another behind-the-scenes snap

Dressed in a floral blue gown, Camilla posed alongside her guests in a line-up in another behind-the-scenes snap 

‘And I think it’s a lovely thing to store. You can have a little store where you have got all these poems in you for the rest of your life, and at some point, rather like today, you can bring them out and talk about them.’

She described childhood memories of reading with her father, Major Bruce Shand. 

Reciting lines from A Smuggler’s Song by Rudyard Kipling, she says: ‘It was about a child being woken up at midnight. 

‘I remember my father reciting it to us. He read the poem and we had to sing the chorus. And we all had The Owl And The Pussy-Cat. We all went to sea in our beautiful pea-green boats.’

Camilla, who names Christina Rossetti’s poem Echo as a favourite, reflects on the success of her Reading Room project, which, she says, many people had assumed would be ‘a total flop’. 

She adds: ‘It is a book club, something that I conjured up in lockdown. A lot of people wrote to me after I’d recommended a few books for them to read and it went so well and I got so many letters that I thought, why not start to put it on a bigger scale?

‘There were a few people who were convinced that it wasn’t going to go anywhere and it would be a total flop, but luckily I’ve been able to prove them wrong.’

The Duchess of Cornwall placed copies of some of her favourite books in a red phone box library at the tiny library exchange in Abergeldie in rural Aberdeenshire earlier this year

The Duchess of Cornwall placed copies of some of her favourite books in a red phone box library at the tiny library exchange in Abergeldie in rural Aberdeenshire earlier this year

The podcast, part of a series featuring Commonwealth authors, was produced by students at Chester University, where the Duchess, as the Countess of Chester, holds an honorary degree.

Gyles said: ‘Curiously, even though I’m a seasoned podcaster and broadcaster, I was still a little bit nervous. But honestly, it couldn’t have been easier.

‘She’s wonderfully relaxed on it. For us, recording the podcast, it was fascinating because you don’t often hear somebody like her talking at length. 

‘But she was a natural and even though we edited it down to about 40 minutes, we had about an hour of chitchat.’

Camilla, Dame Joanna, and Gyles and Aphra also read poems together, encouraging people to meet up for informal poetry slams over tea and coffee with friends and neighbours.

The podcast release comes just before the Prince of Wales and Camilla are due to visit the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which takes place in Kigali, Rwanda, during the week of June 20.

Charles has been an active supporter of the Commonwealth for more than 50 years and together with Camilla, they have shown their backing through official visits, military links, charitable activities and other special events – such as the opening of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 in New Delhi, India; in 2014 Glasgow and in 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia.

Gyles, who is a Royal Commonwealth Society ambassador, added: “At the end of the day, we’d all had fun. We had fun talking about the Commonwealth, poetry – being serious at times – but also having having a laugh. It was a joy.

‘In our next episode we’re visiting Rwanda, a beautiful country with a troubled past, and meeting a Rwandan poet who confronts both its beauty and its pain. Then it’s St Kitts and Nevis, Cameroon, Solomon Islands, Australia, Cyprus.

‘In 54 episodes, we’re going around the Commonwealth – home to two-and-a-half billion people – using poetry as our guide. In some episodes, there is singing and dancing, too.’

The Commonwealth Poetry Podcast is available from today on commonwealthpoetrypodcast.co.uk and on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music. 

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