The Queen invited renowned authors to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the world’s most famous doll’s house the day after King’ Charles was discharged from hospital.
She created a tiny manuscript for the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, as did some of the nation’s best-loved writers, from Sir Tom Stoppard and Dame Jacqueline Wilson to Sir Ben Okri and Alan Bennett.
Camilla joked that writing a miniature book for the centenary celebrations of the world’s most famous dolls’ house affected her eyesight.
The King’s consort stood by her husband’s side on Monday as he left hospital following treatment for an enlarged prostate and a day later was all smiles during a Windsor Castle reception to thank those involved in the project.
She praised the gathered writers, binders and illustrators for contributing to the “fantastic” initiative and told them: “As a child, seeing the dolls’ house for the first time, I was always fascinated by the books.
“The idea of actually seeing these important writers, actually seeing their writing, was huge excitement – thinking that was written by Conan Doyle, whoever.
“And I know the future generations are going to feel the same about all of you. They are going to look at these books and say ‘Goodness, how wonderful’. It’s wonderful to see Alan Bennett or Tom Stoppard, to see their writing.”
She made her guests laugh when she quipped: “I hope your eyesight hasn’t deteriorated that much – certainly mine did.”
Bennett, Stoppard and Okri were among those attending, alongside many of the craftspeople who created the bindings for the books.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House was completed in 1924 for King George V’s consort as a gift from the nation after the First World War.
It features a library reflecting tastes from the 1920s, but the 20 new manuscripts update the collection with short stories, poetry collections, illustrated tales, plays, articles and recipes, many inspired by the dolls’ house or written specially for the occasion.
She said: “For me, it is the library that is the most breath-taking space in the house.
“These new books highlight the incredible richness of 21st century literary talent – and demonstrate how fortunate we are to have access to so many outstanding writers, whose work brings joy, comfort, laughter, companionship and hope to us all, opening our eyes to others’ experiences and reminding us that we are not alone.”
It is a perfect 1:12 scale replica of an Edwardian home, complete with electricity, working lifts, running water, luxurious royal suites and functional below-stairs servants’ quarters.
Former children’s laureate Julia Donaldson created a tiny version of her popular children’s book The Gruffalo illustrated by the original artist Axel Scheffler.
She said: “It was quite tricky working out the new pagination and making my handwriting as small as could be, but Axel had a greater labour of love creating all those extra pictures.”
The poet and novelist Sir Ben Okri, whose book The Famished Road won the Booker Prize in 1991, said: “There is something magical about working with the very small. My contribution to this enchanting project was making a little book of my poems. Writing small concentrates the mind and draws one into the mysterious kingdom of art.
“But then the Dolls’ House too is a mysterious kingdom that once encountered starts a secret yearning to dwell there.”
Alan Bennett created The Mantelpiece for the project while Camilla’s son Tom Parker Bowles, a food writer, was also asked to contribute and produced A Recipe Fit for a Queen.
Playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, whose miniature manuscript is called Kolya’s Glove, said: “As a child I was always fascinated by Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, though I don’t think I ever set eyes on it. I must have read about it.
“At a young age, the miniaturisation seemed almost miraculous to me. So I was frankly thrilled to be invited to contribute to the new Dolls’ House library so many years later.”
The event comes after the King spent three nights at The London Clinic after being admitted on Friday, before leaving the hospital shortly after Queen Camilla was spotted smiling in a black Audi car on her way to visit her husband for the fourth time.
Queen Camilla told people inside The London Clinic on Friday that the King was “doing well” after the procedure.
Their daughter-in-law Kate Middleton was admitted to the same clinic to have abdomen surgery and was admitted a few hours before the King, almost two weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery for an undisclosed reason. Kensington Palace released a statement on Monday to say she is continuing her recovery at home and is “making good progress”.
The 42-year-old future Queen is not expected to return to official duties until after Easter, and the Prince of Wales has temporarily stepped back from his royal role to juggle caring for her and their children.