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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

One of Us

For a long time, we have known that at least one* Janeite lives barely a heartbeat away from the British throne: Seven years ago, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the wife of Prince Charles, listed Elizabeth Bennet among the literary characters she would most like to be.

And last week, additional confirmation of Camilla’s Austen fandom arrived on two fronts.

In a short Instagram interview promoting her online book club, Camilla was asked (starting at :41) which five literary characters she would invite to a dinner party. Once again, Elizabeth made the list, with Camilla describing the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice as “a heroine of mine . . . just a good strong woman to keep the show on the road.” **

A day or two later, the UK’s ranking Janeite found time to visit the new exhibit of Regency underwear at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire – an exhibit that features one especially famous item.

“This is Colin Firth’s shirt,” museum director Lizzie Dunford announced (at :41), as she ushered Camilla into the room where that most famous of Austen movie costumes was displayed on a dress form.

“He’s not in it,” Camilla noted, accurately.

And then, just in case we needed proof that the future queen was truly One of Us, she supplied it: “That’s a bit sad,” she said.

* Is Camilla's stepdaughter-in-law Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, truly a Janeite, or just a dab hand at self-branding and interior design? You decide.

** Camilla filled out her guest list with a peculiar assortment of vivid characters: Alexandre Dumas’ mysterious, vengeful Count of Monte Cristo; cold, obsessive Mrs. Danvers from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca; wildly eccentric Uncle Matthew from Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love; and the suave, villainous Count Fosco, from Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. Elizabeth Bennet would undoubtedly need all the hostessing skills honed over decades in the Pemberley drawing room to keep that bunch under control.


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