How Queen Camilla’s stunning attack forced U-turn on woke censorship of Roald Dahl


Royal author Phil Dampier said he is certain Camilla’s intervention was crucial in persuading the publishers to back down.

The Queen has forced Roald Dahl’s publisher to back down over censorship of his books. It comes after Camilla’s impassioned speech before a group of leading authors about attempts to “curb” freedom of expression.

Sources had revealed the Queen’s “shock and dismay” at plans to remove words from some of the late author’s much-loved children’s books in case they caused offence.

But on Friday Dahl’s publisher backtracked and said his work would continue to appear in its original form.

Royal author Phil Dampier is certain Camilla’s intervention was crucial in persuading the publishers to back down.

He told the Express: “This shows Camilla being acutely aware of the influence she has and using it with great subtlety and to great effect. She did not actually mention Roald Dahl by name, but she did not have to.

“Instead, she spoke to a group of distinguished authors about the dangers of those attempting to curb their freedom of expression or impose limits on their imaginations. In case there was any doubt about what she was talking about she added a mischievous ‘enough said’ at the end of her remarks.

Camilla with Roald Dahl’s classic book The BFG

Camilla with Roald Dahl’s classic book The BFG (Image: Getty)

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“Everyone in that room knew exactly what she was talking about and it was the censorship of Dahl.

“I’m sure that Camilla’s intervention and the reaction to it have been key factors in persuading the publishers to come to their senses and that is a good thing.

“This shows not only that Camilla has retained her sense of humour but that she can use it effectively to achieve positive outcomes.”

Camilla’s remarks came after publishers Puffin announced they had removed words thought capable of causing offence. They had deleted references to weight, height, mental health, gender and skin colour.

But, after Camilla’s intervention on Thursday, Puffin announced they will continue to publish Dahl’s work in the original format. The edited “inoffensive” versions of his work will still also be published by Puffin.

Francesca Dow, a managing director at Penguin, of which Puffin is a children’s imprint, said: “We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation.

“We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print.”

I’m delighted common sense has prevailed. Retaining the original versions of Roald Dahl’s books, alongside any tinkered-with versions, allows readers to make a choice themselves.

That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. You don’t need to read the book if you fear you’re going to be offended, it’s up to you.

Children go for these books and have done for generations precisely because they aren’t sanitised and saintly. That’s why Dahl, who clearly wasn’t the nicest person on the planet, is still being read.

He tapped into something young readers respond to, which is why we’re talking about him and reading his work more than three decades after his death.

There are plenty of very fine 20th-century authors, children’s or otherwise, who have fallen into obscurity and out or print fairly soon after their passing.

The general consensus with this was that it was going far too far to protect imagined sensitivities.

The Queen – a great lover of books – was preaching to the converted when she made her comments to authors and you couldn’t have had a more responsive audience. And of course, any pronouncement by her is going to get more attention than one from an author.

You can understand the reasoning – Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, for example, has been edited as it contains words that are genuinely offensive – but surely wig-wearing or the gender of imaginary cloud beings are not at the top of anyone’s agenda of offensiveness?

When self-righteous censorship goes beyond a reasonable limit, people will ignore it or push back. This was a wake-up call for publishers.


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