Camilla enjoys visit to East End school

The Duchess of Cornwall learns some sign language during a visit to the Mulberry School for Girls.

The Duchess of Cornwall learns some sign language during a visit to the Mulberry School for Girls. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A delighted Camilla told schoolgirl bakers she’d take their cupcakes home to share with her husband, Prince Charles, when the youngsters presented her with a batch of ‘crown cakes’ as a gift.

The Duchess of Cornwall was visiting Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell last Thursday and spent about two hours touring the building and popping into lessons, before officially opening the Bigland Green Community Centre next door.

She arrived at the school in Commercial Road at 10.15am and after meeting headteacher Dr Vanessa Ogden and other members of staff, she headed straight to the library.

A group of students was studying the poem Morning at the Window by T.S. Eliot, and Camilla apologised to teachers before shaking their hands because her hands were still cold from the chilly air outside.

After a last-minute change of seats just before the duchess came into the library, 14-yar-old pupil Tara Uddin, who is in year nine, found herself sitting beside the woman in line to be the next queen.

Tara admitted she was “a bit nervous” when Camilla started chatting to her, but said: “She’s very nice. She was asking me what we were doing and asking what sort of poets I liked.

“She was very comfortable to talk to.”

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The duchess wandered around speaking to some of the other students, and was then to shown to a year nine English lesson where pupils were learning about gothic fiction.

A packed itinery then saw her drop in on a session of the student council, watch a short performance by a year 10 dance class, and enjoy a performance by drama students called The Unravelling, in the school’s theatre.

Then it was time to see some students having fun on the trampoline and learning judo in the gymnasium, before heading upstairs to visit a class for pupils with special educational needs.

Camilla seemed delighted as the students, who are all learning sign language, signed “good morning your Royal Highness” as she entered the class.

“Are you going to teach me some signs?” she asked, and the pupils taught her the gestures for “happy” so she could take part in a signed song with them.

After the lesson, Camilla enjoyed tea and cakes, which had been prepared by the students and she took a stroll outside in the sunshine along paths lined with pupils who curtsied as she walked past.

Next, she dropped into the school kitchens to meet the students who had prepared the cakes.

“Do you cook a bit at home?” Camilla asked one of the girls.

“Not really!” the student replied, bashfully.

Before she left, one of the students presented the duchess with a pretty box of cupcakes. Inside, she found cakes decorated with crowns made out of icing, blueberry cakes and fruit tarts.

“They look delicious!” Camilla said. “I don’t know where to start – I’ll have to take them home. Perhaps I’ll save one for my husband.”

As Camilla left the school to make her way to the community centre, most of the school seemed to be outside to wave her off.

Year 11 pupil Sadeea Nishat, 15, bellowed for the girls to give three cheers for the duchess.

“I wasn’t nervous about leading the cheers,” Sadeea said. “I’m pretty confident because I am a drama student.”

Camilla waved to the girls as she left, and stopped to pet a stray cat that one of the girls was holding.

Inside the centre, Camilla found a group of mums enjoying a jewellery workshop. The women sell the beaded necklaces, bracelets, and earrings to raise funds for more activities.

Camilla praised the jewellery, saying how pretty it was, but said she’d struggle to participate in the fiddly work without her specs. “I haven’t got very good eyesight,” she admitted.

Mum Bahar Khanam, who has a 15-year-old daughter at the school and two daughters at university who were former students, spoke at length with the duchess as she worked on a necklace.

“It’s a great way to socially interact and learn new skills,” the 42-year-old, of Galsworthy Avenue, Poplar, told Camilla.

The duchess said the work looked like fun and added: “Anything you do with your hands is quite therapeutic, isn’t it?”

The mums presented her with some jewellery before she left.

“Thank you so much – that’s beautiful,” the duchess said. “I shall treasure that.”


The last item on the agenda was for Camilla to officially open the Bigland Green Community Centre by unveiling a plaque.

The centre will provide health and employment advice, as well as educational programmes.

Dr Ogden gave a speech about the importance of education and told the duchesss: “We know that you know this because of your interest in literacy.”

Camilla gave an impromptu speech saying she’d enjoyed a “wonderful visit”. She had been hoping to visit the school for “a long time” she said.

“I’ve been so impressed by everything I’ve seen,” she added. “I hope it will go from strength to strength and I’m sure it will.”

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