Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest updates about Their Royal Highnesses including news, events and photos straight to your inbox

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess
of Cornwall

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Prince Harry

Open

Speeches

A speech by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at the 500 Words competition, broadcast on BBC Radio 2

Published on 16th June 2017

Before I say a few words on a happier note, - I'm sure all of you here today would like to join me in sending our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and friends, who were so tragically involved in the horrific fire in North Kensington.

Now I suspect, Ladies and Gentlemen, that you never thought you'd be sent to The Tower of London… but here we are today! And if you've read the 'Horrible Histories' you'll know that, in the old days, it was usually a one-way ticket!

As I look round at the happy faces today, I think I can safely say that we are all very excited to be within these historic walls.  Chris Evans and the team at BBC Radio 2 have planned yet another amazing extravaganza to celebrate the final of this magical 500 Words competition, and as I was cast as its ancient Fairy Godmother I'm hoping that there's still a little bit of magic floating around…  

But we don't really need extra magic… look where we are!  The Tower of London is such a famous landmark and such a powerful symbol of London.  It has even featured in episodes of Dr. Who – though you don't need a tardis to be a time traveller here.

Even the names of the buildings around us are dripping with history; The Bloody Tower, Traitors Gate and The Waterloo Block to name but a few.

Places like this tell their own stories and speak to us about the people who lived and died within these walls, which sometimes can awaken lost memories, illuminating the past… 

From the time of William the Conqueror, the Tower of London has inspired a plethora of incredible stories.  There are so many tales from the past – like the mysterious disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, or the polar bear, given to King Henry III by The King of Norway.  It must have been an extraordinary sight to see it swimming in the Thames catching fish for its supper!  And I won't even begin to tell you about the ghosts…

There is even a tale behind the sea of poppies which gradually filled the moat in 2014.  I'm sure some of you will remember how spectacular it looked and how shocking it was to realise that each one of those poppies stood for a serviceman who died in the First World War.  But the idea for the work came completely by chance.  Researching old war records, the artist came across an unknown poem.  Reading the opening line 'The blood swept lands and seas of red' he found both the inspiration and the title of his work.  It's very moving that the words of a soldier, who died fighting in Flanders, should have inspired such a powerful memorial which millions of people queued to see. 

But today is all about your stories.  I've read some of the brilliant ones that you have written this year, so I know that a rainbow of different ideas has stimulated your imaginations.  I'm sure you all know, better than me, that inspiration can play tricks on you.  One day you can sit for hours and wait in vain… and the next it can come straight out of the blue.  It might begin with your own memories… happy or sad, or snatches of overheard conversations, or even glimpses of people brought to life by visiting places, drenched in history, like this. 

Wherever you find your inspiration, in the past, present or future, I'm thrilled you love writing.  Your stories are brimming with ideas, and fizzing with energy, and hopefully encouraging others, who are listening today, to follow your example. 

Now I know we are all on tenterhooks to hear the Gold winning stories, but before we do, I just want to congratulate all the talented young writers who entered this year's competition and to thank Chris Evans for masterminding it once again.  Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, let's be thankful that our ticket to The Tower of London is a return one so we can all leave today with our heads still on our shoulders!

Thank you very much.