Queen given ‘get well card’ for King by Dames and Hamlets at Shakespeare event

Queen Camilla pictured with stars including Joanna Lumley, Floella Benjamin and Twiggy Lawson
Queen Camilla pictured with stars including Joanna Lumley, Floella Benjamin and Twiggy Lawson - CHRIS JACKSON/AFP
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The King has been sent a supersized get well soon card from the leading lights of Britain’s theatre, as more than a dozen “Dames and Hamlets” joined the Queen to toast his good health.

The Queen joined the country’s most distinguished actors and actresses for a celebration of Shakespeare at Grosvenor House, London, which turned into a gathering of goodwill for the King.

A lifelong fan of Shakespeare, the King had to miss the event owing to ill health, having just undergone his second treatment for cancer.

The Queen will return to him at Sandringham with a large card signed by dozens of friends and admirers, who signed their names with short messages during the event.

In a message that will mean much to the King, who has often spoken of his admiration of those who tread the boards, the card quotes Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well” to say: “Tis our hope, Sir, to return / And find Your Grace in good health”.

Queen Camilla greets actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Penelope Keith
Queen Camilla greets Dame Vanessa Redgrave and Dame Penelope Keith - Chris Jackson/Pool

The guest list included Baroness Floella Benjamin, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Penelope Keith, Dame Twiggy Lawson, Dame Joanna Lumley, Dame Virginia McKenna, Dame Sian Phillips, Dame Vanessa Redgrave, Dame Patricia Routledge, Dame Janet Suzman, Dame Harriet Walter and Dame Penelope Wilton.

The Queen counts many of them as her friends, and appeared buoyed by the warmth of the gathering at Grosvenor House, hosted by Gyles Brandreth with the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company.

Shakespearean actors in attendance included Sir Simon Russell Beale, Sir David Suchet, Jeremy Irons, Julian Glover, Brian Cox, Freddie Fox, Gary Oldman and Robert Lindsay.

Lady Sarah Chatto, the King’s cousin and a champion of the arts in her own right, was also there.

Brandreth offered a toast to “a King and Queen whose love for literature and the arts is so deep rooted, so real and so supportive, it’s wonderful for us and it’s wonderful for our country”.

He also presented the Queen with two matching heart jumpers, for her and the King on Valentine’s Day.

The event was to mark 400 years since the first Shakespeare folio.

Queen was gifted two jumpers with big red hearts for Valentine's Day
Queen was gifted two jumpers with big red hearts for Valentine's Day - REUTERS/POOL

The Queen, 75, wearing a green velvet Me + Em dress and white drop Alhambra Van Cleef & Arpels earrings, attended with her sister Annabel Elliot. The pair were joined by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Lady Sarah , Gabriella Windsor and her husband, and Freddie Windsor and his wife, the actress Sophie Winkleman.

While speaking to the “dozen dames”, Dame Vanessa presented her with a large bouquet of roses. “Thank you, that’s very kind,” said the Queen, before a group photo was taken.

She joined a reception where English wine had been specially ordered for the King and guests dined on Shakespeare-themed canapes including “To beet or not to beet” blinis.

Also on the guest list were Sir Tim Rice, poet laureate Simon Armitage, Jeremy Paxman, Fiona Bruce, Melvyn Bragg, the playwright Sir David Hare and theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

Authors including Sir Michael Morpurgo and Jilly Cooper joined directors such as Tamara Harvey, the co-artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

After chatting to guests, the Queen, a long-term campaigner on the joys and benefits of literature, joined Brandreth who took to a stage and made a speech.

“I was telling the Queen I’ve given up name-dropping for Lent, so the next few days are going to be tricky for me,” he said.

He then raised a toast “to the King, the Queen and William Shakespeare”, before turning to the Queen, saying: “You can’t drink because you’re part of the toast.”

The writer and broadcaster, who is known for wearing quirky jumpers, added: “The last time I saw the King, I was wearing one of my jumpers and he said it looked suitable for a hearth-rug.

“We all send His Majesty our love and respect and huge best wishes for an early recovery. Long live the King!”

Next, Dame Judi took to the stage to perform Sonnet 116, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”, to rapturous applause, with Oldman starting his performance of a comedy poem about Hamlet by joking: “This is quite a house. Gyles said it would just be a few people, and he didn’t tell me I’d have to follow Judi Dench.”

Finally, Lindsay performed the musical number “Brush up on your Shakespeare” from Cole Porter’s musical, Kiss Me Kate, to laughter and applause from the Queen and the audience.

Clearly enjoying herself, the Queen left just after 8.30pm, more than half an hour after her scheduled departure time.

Speaking after the reception, the actor Sir Stephen Fry, a close friend of the King and Queen, said: “We are incredibly lucky to have a King and Queen who are so powerfully supporting the arts, particularly at a time of such savage cuts.

“Whatever you think of the monarchy, their role is to bind the nation together, and they are doing that.

“It was terrific to hear the support for the King tonight, every taxi driver and barista I talk to wants to wish him well. He is genuinely so self-questioning, it is one of his most endearing qualities, I don’t think he would believe it – all the support.”

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