Queen praises young writers at reception for essay competition winners

The Queen met the 2023 winners and runners-up (Maja Smieskowska/PA)
The Queen met the 2023 winners and runners-up (Maja Smieskowska/PA)

The Queen has praised “brilliant” young writers during a reception for the winners of this year’s Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition at Buckingham Palace.

Camilla said the competition had brought “communities across the Commonwealth closer together”.

The 140-year-old contest, the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools, has “given young people the opportunity to express themselves on the issues that matter most”, she said.

Camilla met the 2023 winners and runners-up, as well as Dr Linda Yueh, executive chairwoman of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, an RCS ambassador.

This year’s participants, aged between 11 and 17 from India and Malaysia, were asked to write on the subject of “a youth-powered Commonwealth”. with extracts from the winners’ essays read out at the palace by literary figures and actors including Dame Joanna Lumley, Sir Ben Okri and Sanjeev Bhaskar.

During her speech, avid reader Camilla described how Queen Victoria was also a “passionate lover of literature”.

“She was particularly fond of the works of many authors, including Jane Austen, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Lewis Carroll.

“Legend has it that, having admired Alice In Wonderland, the Queen wrote to Lewis Carroll to request first editions of any of his other books.

“By return of post she received a copy of his Syllabus Of Plane Algebraic Geometry. Probably not what she was after,” the Queen said.

Praising the entrants, Camilla said: “Well done to each and every one of you, you are quite brilliant and I have, as ever, enormously enjoyed reading your entries.”

The winners of this year’s competition were Siddhi Deshmukh, senior winner, 17, Mumbai, India; Shreeya Sahi, junior winner, 12, Panchkula, India; Yong Sin Kong, senior runner-up, 15, Johor, Malaysia; and Mitali Ragtah, junior runner-up, 11, New Delhi, India.