Queen Camilla says favourite fairytales gave her ‘quite bad dreams’

Queen Camilla has recalled the pleasures and terrors of having childhood nightmares about Grimms’ Fairy Tales in a discussion about her favourite literature for World Book Day. The Queen Consort, who is patron of the UK’s largest children’s reading charity BookTrust, described the joy of being frightened by a good book and also of bonding with her grandchildren over their favourite reads.

She sat down with Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho in the library at Clarence House to discuss their shared love of literature and, not for the first time, named Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic Black Beauty as perhaps her favourite book from her childhood.

Camilla, 75, said she went through so many phases and read so many books it was difficult to identify her favourite but confessed: “I have to admit, in the end, I ended up probably being a sort of pony-mad child with Black Beauty, which I howled over, night after night after night.”

She recalled the thrill of reading adventure stories. “You go on the adventures yourself as a child,” she said. “You know, The Swiss Family Robinson… my sister and brother and I, we all used to go off and camp and pretend we were stranded with just animals for company. It takes you into a multitude of different worlds.”

Coelho, 42, a London-born poet, recalled finding the Ladybook Fairy Tales quite scary and Camilla asked: “Did you ever try the Grimms’ Fairy Tales? They were seriously scary.

“I remember going to bed at night and having quite bad dreams about them. I think as children half of you wants to be scared. You don’t want to be scared too much, but it’s that sort of frisson of just being a little bit frightened.”

The Queen Consort extolled the virtues of reading from a young age. “When you see the pure enjoyment that children are getting out of reading, and if you get that at a very early age, it’s going to help you so much in future life,” she said. “The more books you read, the more you are going to understand about different places, different cultures, different ways of life.”

She also told Coelho how reading to her grandchildren helped her bond with them.

Camilla, who has five grandchildren through her son Tom and daughter Laura, said: “It was just a wonderful way of getting to know them, bonding, sitting on the end of their bed and just reading. You know we just took it in turns to find our favourite stories.

“And what’s lovely is it’s really got them reading, properly reading. I mean they are book worms now. It’s so lovely if I go and see them I find them tucked up in bed saying please don’t turn off the lights, I’ve got to finish this chapter.”

“I think it’s something if it is instilled in you at a young age, you never forget it. I remember my father reading to us and consequently you turn around and you read to your grandchildren.

“I think I’ve read every children’s book. I can practically do them backwards.”

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