A British Literary Festival Fit for a Queen

In 1603, the newly christened King’s Men acting troupe took up a Christmas residency at Hampton Court Palace. Every night, the company — best known for its master playwright William Shakespeare — would celebrate the holidays and the ascendancy of its patron, King James I, with a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, including a New Year’s performance of the romantic fairy romp “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Earlier this month, the palace once again opened its grounds for a royally sanctioned celebration of the written word: the second annual Queen’s Reading Room Festival.

“To me reading is a great adventure,” said Queen Camilla, who started her Reading Room charity as a virtual book club in 2021, when the pandemic prevented most in-person adventuring. Today, the initiative helps promote the joy of reading by highlighting books selected by the monarch (her most recent pick: Min Jin Lee’s Korean family epic “Pachinko”), producing a podcast and organizing a day of panels, book signings and literary performances.

This year’s festival included poetry readings by Helena Bonham Carter, conversations with literary luminaries such as Bernardine Evaristo and Mary Beard and a celebration of Charles Dickens performed by the deliciously cheeky Miriam Margolyes, all drawing thousands of people to Hampton Court’s historic grounds.

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