Davies, Carolyn. "The Queen meets two of Britain's best loved bestsellers," The Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2001

THE Queen told the creator of Harry Potter yesterday that she had been a "voracious reader" as a child and the habit had prepared her for her role on the throne.

[Back to school: the Queen sits with pupils from Morpeth Secondary as they partake in a poetry wookshop]

She told the children's author J K Rowling: "It stood me in good stead because I read quite quickly now and I have to read a lot." The two met in London during a Royal "theme day", to celebrate British publishing. The Queen was able to inform the best-selling author Miss Rowling that her granddaughter, Princess Eugenie, the Duke and Duchess of York's younger daughter, was a committed Harry Potter fan.

Miss Rowling, 35, who earlier this month received an OBE from the Prince of Wales, was among authors, publishers and agents introduced to the Queen at Bloomsbury Publishing. They included Joanna Trollope, 57, whose "Aga sagas" set in rural Middle England have made her a bestseller. Miss Trollope said: "The Queen's childhood was pre-television and children read more in those days. Thanks to J K Rowling, children are reading again - it's now cool to read."

But had the fantastical world of Harry Potter been on the Queen's shelves as a child, she was unlikely to have been a fan. The princess's favourite was Black Beauty, Anna Sewell's children's classic about the adventures of a horse. According to her late governess, "Crawfie", tales of whimsy did not find favour in the Royal schoolroom, with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland being dismissed as "rather stupid".

By the time the Queen was 18, she had devoured, according to courtiers at the time, "many of Shakespeare's plays", the Canterbury Tales, the Brontes, Coleridge, Keats, Browning, Tennyson, Scott and Dickens and Trevelyan's History of England, to name but a few. Her preference was for historical novels and stories about the Highlands.

Miss Rowling said later that she hoped the theme day - the fifth such day the Queen has participated in to highlight different industries - would improve the position of children's publishing. "From my point of view, I hope today is about children's publishing, which is sometimes a poor relation - and that's a shame." She added that the Prince of Wales had told her he knew her books well and liked them. She said: "I would like to think other members of the Royal Family would also like them."

Miss Trollope told the Queen: "I write mostly about contemporary relationships." The Queen asked: "And how is your relationship with your publisher?" Miss Trollope, who was awarded an OBE in 1996, replied: "On the whole it's been very harmonious - I don't think we've had a cross word." Her latest novel, Marrying the Mistress, was written after the break-up of her marriage to the playwright Ian Curteis and the resulting deep depression.

Later, the Queen attended a poetry workshop with a class of 15-year-olds at Morpeth Secondary School in London's East End. Dressed in a blue outfit with beige straw hat, she sat in the front row of the class on a plastic chair next to a startled pupil, Emma Darcy. Behind her sat the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion. "It's not every day we get the Queen and the Poet Laureate in our class," said Emma.

The Queen ended the day with a reception at Buckingham Palace for 600 representatives from the book publishing industry, which generates £4 billion a year. Guests included the novelists Beryl Bainbridge, Jilly Cooper, Celia Brayfield, John Mortimer and Colin Dexter. Also attending was Lady Frances Partridge, 101, the last surviving member of the Bloomsbury Set.