In February, Queen Camilla carried her passion for promoting literature onto the throne when she relaunched the book club she founded in 2021 as a charity called The Queen’s Reading Room and set a date for the organization’s first annual in-person literary festival. Now, the Queen’s Reading Room has announced the slate of events for the festival, which will take place at Hampton Court Palace on June 11, and the list includes luminaries such as Dame Judi Dench, Gyles Brandreth, Philippa Gregory, and Ken Follett.
In a statement, the CEO of the Queen’s Reading Room Vicki Perrin explained the festival’s aims and its relevance to the charity’s goal of providing opportunities for adults and children to appreciate literature. “There is a special kind of magic to be found in a book, and great wonder in listening to authors speak about their work,” she said. “I have no doubt that visitors will find themselves inspired by these great minds, enjoy connecting with fellow readers and I hope that they will come away transformed into lifelong literature lovers.”
One of the festival’s marquee events is a performance and panel in tribute to the late Hilary Mantel, the novelist who cataloged 16th century palace intrigue in her award-winning Wolf Hall trilogy. Mantel, who died last September at the age of 72, will be remembered with readings by stage actors Ben Miles and Dame Harriet Walter and a discussion between Gregory and novelist Kamila Shamsie, moderated by the historian David Olusoga. (Incidentally, Olusoga was also a talking head in the Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, where he discussed subjects including the legacy of the British empire.)
Dench, a close friend of the royal family, will sit for a wide-ranging conversation with Brandreth, and the actress will discuss her love for William Shakespeare and share anecdotes from her long career. Follett with join with fellow authors Ben Macintyre and Robert Harris for a panel called “An Eye For a Spy,” where they discuss the lasting love for espionage fiction, along with a reading by actor David Harewood, who is known for his spy-adjacent roles in Homeland and The Night Manager.
Tickets for individual events range from £17.50 to £150, and the proceeds will be split between the Queen’s Reading Room and Historic Royal Palaces, the organization that manages Hampton Court Palace and other former royal residences. According to the Queen’s Reading Room, the event will be rounded out by literary-themed palace tours, a Jane Austen-themed improv troupe, and a schedule of book signings.
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