Star Joins Royals In Charles Dickens Tribute

Gillian Anderson says she was "extremely privileged" to entertain Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as part of the 200th anniversary celebrations of Charles Dickens birth.

The actress , who played Miss Havisham in the BBC's recent adaptation of Great Expectations, read an extract from the novel to the royal couple as the day was marked throughout Britain.

Beforehand she admitted to Sky News she was very nervous but it was something she "couldn't say no to".

Following the reading, Prince Charles showed his appreciation, remarking: "How fantastic".

He added: "What fun it is to be read to".

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were given a tour of the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, London, where Dickens lived with his wife and children from 1837 until 1839.

Some of his best-loved novels were written there including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.

Anderson believes Dickens' stories still resonanate with audiences today because they tap into the human condition and "tug at the heartstrings".

"A lot of the emotions that he deals with in his stories are emotions that we still come up against... the level of sadness, tragedy, loss, sorrow and all these things which play out so much in his novels are still things we identify with today," she said. 

"His characters are so complex and strange and fantastic and his stories tug at the heartstrings and we love things that tug at our heart strings".

She added: "He was so specific about the human condition and his description of characters and the state of being at that time in England is part of our historical record of what it was like back then."

Anderson said it was a "wonderful opportunity" to play Miss Havisham despite some claiming that, at 43, she was too young to play the role.

She explained: "It is actually through Pip's eyes, and it wouldn't make sense at that time for her to be that old, if it was only 15, 20 years since she was jilted. In those days she would have been marrying at 18,19,20"

She added: "I think the age actually matches up."

Great Expectations was a big hit with viewers when it aired at the end of December.

Anderson said: "This interpretation found a balance between a contemporary look in the way it was shot... but at the same time getting the same weight of that period in history, the disparities between classes, the poverty, the struggle that Pip goes through."

The X Files star also played Lady Dedlock in the BBC adaptation of Bleak House in 2005 which earned her a Golden Globe and Emmy nomination.

She said: "A lot of his females are so complicated and have such tragic stories. Tragedy and that level of conflict makes for good drama."

After the reading Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall marked the anniversary by laying a wreath at Dickens' grave at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.

The service was attended by descendents of the author and included a reading from Bleak House by actor Ralph Fiennes .

He is to star as Magwitch in a new film adaptation of Great Expectations, which will feature Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham.

Another reading was given by Mark Dickens, the writer's great-great-grandson.

Dickens had asked to be buried at Rochester Cathedral in his beloved Kent but a public outcry led to his remains being placed in Poets' Corner.

Celebrations have also been held in his native Portsmouth where he was born on February 7, 1812.

When he died in 1870, at 58, he was one of the most famous writers in the world.