The Duchess of Cornwall has proclaimed she is a “confirmed oldie” as she celebrated her 75th birthday with guests including Jeremy Irons and Dame Joanna Lumley.
Actors, musicians and writers joined her for a champagne reception and sea bass lunch at the National Liberal Club, Whitehall.
Camilla, who appeared in good spirits as she cracked jokes about toilet paper, wanted her party to celebrate the achievements of those aged over 70.
“You sweetly thought you were here because of who you are,” the broadcaster Gyles Brandreth joked with guests.
“You’re actually here because of how old you are.”
The afternoon began with the duchess greeting arrivals in the club’s foyer before heading up to the terrace, which overlooks Whitehall Gardens.
Members of the public passed by below, unaware that the chef Rick Stein, former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Twiggy were just a few feet away.
Sipping from a Diet Coke with ice and lime – though a Jean de Foigny champagne was also on offer – Camilla chatted with well-wishers including Sir Derek Jacobi and Sian Phillips.
Once the group had moved into the dining room, the duchess spoke about the year she was born and paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, who died in April last year.
“I know that some of you were around in 1947 – by the way, a vintage year for claret,” she said
“It was also the year when the first Ealing Comedies were released, the school leaving age was raised to 15, Gardeners’ Question Time was first broadcast, the University of Cambridge admitted women to full membership and soft loo paper went on sale for the first time.
“It was also in 1947 that the-then Princess Elizabeth married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten: two of the most remarkable people in our country’s history.
“The Duke of Edinburgh’s philosophy was clear – look up, look out, say less, do more and get on with the job – and that’s just what I intend to do.”
Speaking near to a marble statue of William Gladstone, Britain’s oldest prime minister, she continued: “Both he and Her Majesty have been… an inspiration to each one of us here to do the same, whatever her age.”
As the sea bass arrived, Camilla was seated next to Lord Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Irons, with the children’s author Michael Morpurgo opposite.
Before pudding – Earl Grey tea and dark chocolate truffle cake – she took Dame Joanna Lumley’s chair, where she joined Nigel Havers and former ITN newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald.
Brandreth, a former Tory MP, compared his difficulties organising the seating plan to “the way the prime minister has had to arrange his government over the last ten days”.
He also took the opportunity to return a senior railcard to the poet John Agard, who had dropped it during the champagne reception.
After a speech by Lord Williams, who hailed the duchess as a “warrior lady”, Camilla was presented with a birthday cake by her 15-year-old granddaughter, Lola.
The tiered creation – featuring the duchess’ coat of arms and Jack Russells – was wheeled in on a trolley as the award-winning bass baritone Willard White led guests in a round of “Happy Birthday”.
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