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Posted on 14th March 2018

The inspirational leadership of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in promoting and encouraging literacy initiatives and celebrating literature will be recognised with the award of an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Chester on Friday (March 16.)

Graduation 2018
Graduation 2018

Her Royal Highness, who also has the title Countess of Chester, will attend the University’s graduation ceremony at 2.30pm in Chester Cathedral. She will be presented with the award by the University’s Chancellor, Dr Gyles Brandreth.

HRH The Prince of Wales also received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2007, when he last visited the University with the Countess, in recognition of his personal commitment and dedication to the Prince’s Trust, and the promotion of its work and mission as the UK’s leading youth charity.

Both Their Royal Highnesses have honorary degrees from the University of Aberdeen, where the Countess is Chancellor, but the University of Chester is the first higher education institution in England to award both HRH The Prince of Wales (who also has the title Earl of Chester) and the Countess of Chester an honorary degree.

The Countess is a champion of literacy both in the UK and internationally. She has visited numerous schools, where she often reads to children, and she has supported literacy projects aimed at improving reading skills among adults and schemes to encourage fathers to read to their children.

The University was founded in 1839 by the Church of England and made national history as the first place in the country to be purpose built for the training of teachers. As today’s University trains teachers, to address literacy, numeracy and other learning needs in the next generation, its Faculty of Education and Children's Services has consistently been judged 'Outstanding' by Ofsted. For the past 15 years, the University has also nurtured talented writers with a local connection towards publication via the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature.

HRH Camilla

Her Royal Highness, (pictured left) wearing red doctoral robes with an orange hood, will give a brief acceptance speech to the congregation, including around 500 graduands and their families and invited guests.

Following the ceremony, the Countess will meet a group of students from the University to find out more about how they are aspiring to make a difference through their careers by becoming the nurses, midwives, teachers and police officers of the future.

She will learn about these students’ invaluable work in the community as they undertake their training and how this aligns with the University’s Mission Statement, abbreviated as: Founded in Faith – Creating Community – Serving Society. The Mission Statement states that ‘the University seeks to provide all its students and staff with the education, skills, support and motivation to enable them to develop as confident world citizens and successfully to serve and improve the global communities within which they live and work’.

The Countess will be welcomed by the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, David Briggs, and meet guests from the University, Cathedral, City of Chester and the wider local community.

As she leaves the Cathedral, the Countess will be presented with a piece of written work in no more than 75 words by Year Six pupils at the University Church Free School in Chester. The ‘short short story’ was judged by Dr Ashley Chantler and Dr Peter Blair, both Senior Lecturers in the Department of English at the University of Chester, who are also Directors of the International Flash Fiction Association.

The Countess has a number of key patronages involving literacy, including The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Prize, the National Literacy Trust, First Story, Beanstalk and BookTrust. In her capacity as honorary judge, she has actively promoted the BBC Radio 2’s initiative 500 Words designed to encourage creative writing for the five to nine and 10 to 13 age groups. In 2017, 131,798 children entered the competition and the six winning stories were revealed at the finale, live from the Tower of London. In 2018, the final will be broadcast live from Hampton Court Palace on June 8.

Since her marriage to The Prince of Wales in 2005, The Countess of Chester has become Patron or President of over 90 charities. She also undertakes public engagements on behalf of the charities that she supports.

Amongst her many commitments, Her Royal Highness has offered support to patients, researchers and health professionals engaged in the management of osteoporosis.  As President of the National Osteoporosis Society, and a previous speaker for the International Osteoporosis Foundation, she has been a champion for all who work with, or suffer from, this debilitating disorder that leads to many thousands of fractures each year.

In recent years, Her Royal Highness has shown her support of victims of rape and sexual assault by visiting centres across the UK and abroad and has developed a growing interest in financial inclusion with a particular focus on Credit Unions. The Countess is passionate about good food in schools and for the young and supports local food producers.  Her Royal Highness believes that educating children about where food comes from and eating healthily is paramount to their wellbeing.

Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, said: “We very much look forward to welcoming back Her Royal Highness and it is a privilege that we can recognise her work in promoting literacy, both at home and abroad. As an institution dedicated to learning and teaching, this is a cause, to which we are passionately committed.

“It is particularly fitting that we, the University of Chester, are able to acknowledge the Countess of Chester’s work in the majesty of the city’s Cathedral.”

 Photo credit: Chris Jackson

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