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Queen praises young writers as she presents prizes in BBC literary competition

The Queen has praised a group of award-winning young writers for their ability to “conjure magic with your pens” as she celebrated their talent at Buckingham Palace.

Camilla helped host the BBC 500 Words awards ceremony and was credited by writer and comic Charlie Higson, a member of the judging panel alongside Sir Lenny Henry, for ensuring the project returned after a three-year hiatus.

The young finalists had their entries read in the palace’s ballroom by a group of celebrities who included Hollywood star Tom Hiddleston, actor Luke Evans and talent show judge Oti Mabuse.

BBC writing competition reception
The Queen, the BBC 500 Words winners and celebrity readers (Pete Dadds/BBC/PA)

During the ceremony staged last Wednesday, and broadcast in a special episode of the BBC’s The One Show, the Queen highlighted the famous writers who had received honours at Buckingham Palace from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

Camilla described how even “literary hero” Paddington had tea with Queen Elizabeth II and told the young writers: “Now it is our turn to say hats off to all of you, with or without a marmalade sandwich underneath them!

“You are here for the same reason that geniuses like Quentin Blake and Julia Donaldson were invited to the Palace – because each one of you is a brilliant writer, with the power to conjure magic with your pens and lead us on escapades with your keyboards.

“And all in just 500 Words!”

Camilla is an avid reader, patron of a number of literary organisations and has been supporting the children’s writing competition since 2015.

BBC writing competition reception
The Queen with Malorie Blackman from the BBC 500 Words judging panel (Chris Jackson/PA)

Since it was launched in 2011 by Chris Evans on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show, the competition has received more than one million stories from children throughout the UK.

Last year, entrants in two age categories, five to seven-year-olds and eight to 11-year-olds, were asked to use their creativity and write the story they wanted to read for bronze, silver and gold prizes, with the Queen presenting the top awards.

She told the guests who included the prize winners and their parents: “Over the years, it has actually turned into half a billion words that have been written, typed, scribbled and tumbled onto thousands of pages by children across the UK, read by an army of volunteers and then sent to Oxford University Press to form the biggest collection of children’s writing in the world.”