Books, horses and why Black Beauty still makes her cry: Duchess of Cornwall shares memories of ‘pony-mad’ childhood

  • The Duchess of Cornwall has shared how her love of horses and passion for reading inspired the choice of her favourite childhood book, Black Beauty.

    The Duchess was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme over Christmas, to guest editor Lord Dobbs, about her love of books and the importance of reading, particularly in childhood.

    “It came through my father who was a fervent bibliophile and he lived surrounded by books,” said the duchess, speaking on the 27 December show.

    “[When we were] very small children, he used to come and plonk himself on the end of our beds and read to us every night. We were always in a great state of excitement as to what he was going to read and how long we could keep him reading for, as we didn’t particularly want to go to sleep. I think that’s where it all started. It was something that was embedded in me from a very early age, to my dotage.”

    She added that Black Beauty was one of her favourites, although the memory of Ginger still makes her cry when she thinks of her, even now.

    “In those days I was a sort of pony-mad child and I thought of very little else apart from horses and ponies and charging about on them,” she added. “So I think Black Beauty was the first book that stuck in my mind.”

    She cited The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Children of the New Forest and A Tale of Two Cities as among her other favourites.

    In January 2021, the duchess launched a virtual “reading room” on Instagram, to celebrate literature in all its forms. She also works with literary charities and spoke of both the importance in increasing literacy and the joy, comfort and escapism reading brings.

    “If you learn to read, however difficult your life is at the time you can pick up a book and you can escape,” she said “You can laugh, you can cry. It just takes you out of the real world and it gives you a different dimension to life. It’s such an important thing.”

    Listen to the Duchess of Cornwall on the Today programme (27 December 2021)

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