The Duchess of Cornwall had a busy day in Yorkshire today; she began with a visit to Halifax with her husband, Prince Charles, before heading to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, and then took a steam train ride.
Camilla arrived at the museum shortly after 1pm, greeting a small crowd that had gathered to welcome her. This crowd included some four-legged and furry friends, which the Duchess patted.
The royal visit came to celebrate the 90th birthday of the museum, which also coincides with Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday and the 125th anniversary of the Brontë Society. The Brontë Parsonage Museum is set in the former home of the Brontë family; they lived here from 1820-1861, and today it houses the largest collection of items related to the three sisters.
Inside, Camilla was shown a selection of special artefacts by principal curator, Ann Dinsdale, including diary entires from Emily and Anne, as well as drawings from all three Brontë’s and miniature books they created.
“How did they do this?” the royal visitor wondered aloud. “Even with my glasses and a magnifying glass I can barely read them.”
Of course, The Duchess of Cornwall is a keen reader and supporter of literacy schemes for both adults and children, so was thrilled to see these items. She fulfilled a long-term wish with her visit today, she told the press.
Camilla helped mark the special anniversaries by finishing a modern copy of Wuthering Heights, Emily’s most-famous work. The manuscript has been created with the help of thousands of visitors to the site, each writing a line or so of the story, in a bid to recreate the manuscript for the book that has been lost for centuries in Clare Twomey’s Wuthering Heights – A Manuscript’ project.
The Royal contributed by writing the final line from the novel: ‘and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth.’
She joked that she had better make her handwriting neat for the special entry, but apologised afterwards: “I think that tailed off a bit towards the end, sorry.”
Later, the Royal told me that this was her favourite part of the day, calling it ‘exciting’ to be involved by ‘writing the final line’.
Next it was onto a reception with staff and volunteers at the Old School House, just down the road from the parsonage; it was here that Charlotte Brontë had her wedding reception in 1854.
This rounded off Camilla’s visit, so it was onto a vintage bus for a drive through the village of Haworth along the bumpy cobbles and down some rather steep slopes!
“I hope the brakes are working!” the Royal laughed as the bus squeaked down the lane, waving at the amazed locals and visitors who had not been expecting the special guest.
Having ridden alongside the Royal, I took the opportunity to grab a photo of the Duchess inside the bus, before she went outside to the waiting media, and asked her about her visit to the Brontë museum, which she said she thoroughly enjoyed.
After the short journey to the nearby Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (which is marking its 50th birthday), the Duchess briefly chatted with the volunteers who keep the steam engines going.
Matthew Stroh, Chairman of the KWVR Preservation Society said: “We are delighted to be hosting a visit from Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall in our 50th Anniversary year. Our volunteers work incredibly hard to preserve our railway heritage and are excited to showcase their efforts.” The Duke of Kent is the organisation’s patron.
Crowds had gathered along the bridge to catch a glimpse of the future Queen Consort.
The railway first opened in 1867 but closed in 1961, but a few years later, a group of local railway enthusiasts brought it back to life; they are now trying to encourage younger people into the hobby to ensure the station’s and the engines’ survival.
Camilla walked along the station platform up the the engine, remarking to photographer Arthur Edwards with a giggle that they both ‘remember these’ old steam engines.
She had a brief look inside the engine of Locomotive Number 85, which was built in 1899, and spoke with those who would be responsible for her journey to Oxenhope.
The train carriage was Saloon 21661, dating back to 1847; this is a special carriage, famous as the ‘Old Gentleman’s Saloon’ in the classic film The Railway Children, which was actually filmed on the same Yorkshire line along which the Duchess travelled today.
Whilst on the journey, the royal guest said it was ‘great fun’ to ride on the steam train.