Archers addict Camilla makes Ambridge cameo

Duchess of Cornwall to play herself in episode of Radio 4 soap, with village still reeling from death of Nigel Pargetter

As a dyed-in-the-wool countrywoman and hunting fan, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has landed a cameo appearance in Radio 4's enduring soap, The Archers.

A longtime "Archers addict", she has agreed to play herself in a forthcoming episode as the everyday story of country folk celebrates its 60th year.

Part of royalty's role is to unite and soothe the country in times of crisis. And so the Duchess of Cornwall's impending visit is revealed with Ambridge still reeling from the death of stately-home toff Nigel Pargetter, felled by merciless scriptwriters last month in the quest for a record audience for its 60th anniversary episode.

Listeners learned of her appearance tonight when Caroline Sterling, owner of the Grey Gables country house hotel, revealed plans for the special guest. The duchess will feature in the programme on 16 February in her role as president of the National Osteoporosis Society, a charity she has supported since 1994.

It's not the first time The Archers has harnessed royalty to mark significant anniversaries. Its 50th birthday was celebrated at a starry reception at St James's Palace hosted by Prince Charles, who seized the opportunity to highlight the foot-and-mouth crisis and the suffering endured by the rural community in recent years.

The Duchess of Cornwall, then just plain Camilla Parker Bowles, revealed an addiction to the drama series which has hooked generations of listeners with a diet of sex, infidelity, family rivalry, GM controversy, fires, fraud and all the other normal travails of village life.Chatting to the cast, she displayed an impressive knowledge of plotlines, including that of the love triangle involving philandering pub landlord Sid Perks, his wife Kathy, and the temptress Jolene. It was reported she had confided to one actor that Jolene was "a bit of a slapper".

Having already recorded her brief part, this time she will meet cast members at BBC Birmingham on 16 February before attending a reception hosted by the chairman of the BBC Michael Lyons.

She is not the first royal to grace Grey Gables. In 1984 Princess Margaret was a surprise guest at an NSPCC fundraising fashion show in the hotel's ballroom. The original plan was for the Duke of Westminster to appear in his capacity as chairman of the charity – portrayed as a fictional relation to Caroline Sterling (then Caroline Bone). But when the princess heard, she asked to take part too, in her role as NSPCC president.

Her appearance bequeathed Grey Gables its coveted Royal Garden Suite, named in memory of her fictional night's stay in the 24-room hotel. At the time the producer, William Smethurst, revealed the princess had quickly mastered the microphone techniques required.

Other people to appear as themselves over the years have included TV and radio personality Gilbert Harding, radio DJ John Peel, actor Britt Ekland, presenter Alan Titchmarsh and jazz musician and broadcaster Humphrey Lyttelton.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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