Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed a whistle-stop visit to the city of Oxford on Wednesday 26 January which included time spent at the Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Libraries.
The Duchess’s visit to the Weston Library came as part of her commitment to the importance of literacy, and promoting the benefits of reading to both children and adults alike. Following the enthusiastic response to Her Royal Highness’s reading lists shared during the early stages of the pandemic, The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room was formed, an Instagram community for book lovers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
Upon arrival at the Weston Library, Her Royal Highness was greeted by Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Laura How, Chief Operating Officer of the Bodleian Libraries, the Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Mrs Marjorie Glasgow, and Sir Philip Pullman, the novelist and Honorary Fellow at Exeter College, who escorted the Duchess for the duration of her visit. Her introduction to the Weston Library included a guided tour of the ‘Melancholy: A New Anatomy’ exhibition, with the exhibition’s Lead Curator, Professor John Geddes.
A tour of Blackwell Hall included a stop at the recently opened Space for Reading, which is designed to be quiet space for visitors to do exactly that, and the Sheldon Tapestry Map of Oxfordshire, (which is on display for the first time in a century). The Duchess also met Sally Dunsmore and Tony Byrne, the organisers of the forthcoming Oxford Literary Festival, which will run from 25th March to 3rd April 2022, in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries.
Following this, the Duchess paid a visit to the Mackerras Reading Room, where she signed the library visitor book and briefly met students and library staff.
From here she visited the Conservation Studio, where she was given demonstrations of conservation projects and insight into how precious manuscripts are preserved, including original items and pre-treatment images from Japanese Nara Ehon picture books and the French Book of Hours.
The Duchess then moved on to the Centre for Digital Scholarship, where she enjoyed a viewing of some of the library’s special treasures including The Bodley Bestiary, Princess Elizabeth’s (later Queen Elizabeth I) New Year’s Book for Katherine Parr, Volume the First: Jane Austen’s earliest book of fiction and JRR Tolkien’s dust-jacket design for The Hobbit.
Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said:
We were delighted to host HRH the Duchess of Cornwall at the University of Oxford today. As the parent of a graduate the Duchess knows the University well.
Laura How, Chief Operating Officer at the Bodleian Libraries, said:
The Duchess of Cornwall’s commitment to encouraging literacy through her social media community and wider work, has been truly inspiring. We were delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness to the Weston Library today to present some of our most prized collections and celebrate the power of literature in all its forms.
Devika, Vice President for Graduates in the Oxford Student Union, who was one of several students who met the Duchess during her visit, said:
It was lovely meeting the Duchess and the best part was being able to introduce her to other students, who are doing some amazing diverse research, which she very kindly listened to and engaged with. The Bodleian gave us an opportunity to represent to the Duchess the values of diversity and inclusivity, which both the University and I am working towards. I am very grateful for that opportunity. As a child and an adult, I have truly enjoyed reading Mr Pullman's work, so it was a joy to speak with him, talk about student engagement and his wonderful books.