Duchess of Cornwall urges nation to 'break the silence of loneliness'

Duchess of Cornwall, 73, urges the nation to help OAPs ‘break the silence of loneliness’ following months of lockdown – and after she isolated from Prince Charles when he tested positive for coronavirus

  • Camilla asks the public to phone a grandparent or send a card to a neighbour
  • Duchess is backing Silver Sunday, a nationwide day to celebrate older people
  • She relied on Houseparty app to keep in touch with loved ones during lockdown

It is only a few short months since she had her own experience of loneliness – so it is little surprise that the Duchess of Cornwall has issued a personal plea for everyone to support the elderly.

In a video message, Camilla, 73, urges the nation to ‘break the silence in which many live, perhaps with a telephone call to a grandparent, a card to an elderly neighbour or by hosting your very own virtual event’.

She was speaking to back a nationwide day to celebrate older people next weekend, called Silver Sunday.

‘It is a day that offers us all the opportunity to focus on older people’s contributions to our communities and to our society,’ she said. ‘As a member of Silver Sunday’s target audience, I can honestly say that it is a completely brilliant initiative.

The Duchess of Cornwall has issued a personal plea for everyone to support the elderly

‘Its aim is to tackle the blight of loneliness that affects so many, and which, very sadly, has increased significantly over the recent months of lockdown.

‘More than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. Silver Sunday is the perfect moment to break the silence in which many live.’

After Prince Charles, 71, was diagnosed with Covid-19 in March, Camilla was forced to isolate from her husband at their Scottish home Birkhall and desperately missed him.

She relied on the video calling app Houseparty to keep in touch with her loved ones, including her children Laura Lopes and Tom Parker-Bowles, and grandchildren.

Speaking further about Silver Sunday, Camilla added: ‘I want to encourage everyone to take the time to remember the older generation on October 4, and to find creative ways to express our appreciation and gratitude to them. Through doing so, you really will make the most enormous difference to anyone who is feeling lonely this autumn. In Silver Sunday’s words, you will ‘fill the day with silver linings and the promise of happy days ahead’.’

A Palace aide said: ‘The Duchess does a lot of work relating to the older generation. One of the biggest problems is around the misery of isolation.

‘She knows how hard this year in particular has been for many older people as lockdown has made it so difficult to be with loved ones. That sadness at being apart from family is something she has felt keenly herself, so she wanted to promote Silver Sunday as a way to encourage people to get in touch not just with older members of their own family but also friends and neighbours as well.’

The Cambridges are treated to a back-garden film premiere with Sir David Attenborough as the excited young Royals watch the broadcaster’s new Life On Our Planet documentary

With no red carpet, no flashing paparazzi bulbs and no Hollywood starlets swanning through Leicester Square in glamorous, flesh-baring gowns, it was a royal film premiere like no other.

Instead, Prince William sat on a rickety wooden chair in his back garden alongside a 94-year-old man cloaked in a tartan blanket to ward off the autumn chill.

But that man was Sir David Attenborough, who was unveiling his new documentary – and who received a reception worthy of the hottest Tinseltown star from three eager young fans, Princes George, seven, and Louis, two, and Princess Charlotte, five, after the screening.

Sir David Attenborough received a reception worthy of the hottest Tinseltown star from three eager young fans, Princes George, seven, and Louis, two, and Princess Charlotte, five, after the screening of his new documentary

He presented George, seven, with a tooth from an extinct giant shark, which lived 23 million years ago, which he had found on a family holiday to Malta in the late 1960s

He presented George, seven, with a tooth from an extinct giant shark, which lived 23 million years ago, which he had found on a family holiday to Malta in the late 1960s.

The three children are all interested in dinosaurs and were fascinated by the megalodon fossil and excitedly asked Sir David a number of questions.

A Palace aide said: ‘The children are massive fans of Sir David and this was the first time they had met him, although they have always wanted to. So they were absolutely delighted, and you can see from Charlotte’s reaction in the picture how excited she was.

‘They were fascinated by the shark tooth and Sir David explained how he had found it, how old it was and how it had been preserved in Malta’s soft yellow limestone.’

Kate, in a new £1,295 Gabriela Hearst denim shirt dress and £475 Rupert Sanderson pumps, smiled as Charlotte, in a £23 Zara floral Peter Pan collar dress, put her hands to her face with excitement.

George, in a £40 Trotters checked shirt and £50 Start-Rite school brogues, handled the giant tooth with evident amazement.

The joyous meeting in Kensington Palace gardens came on Thursday afternoon after William, 38, and the veteran broadcaster watched David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, about the naturalist’s 70-year career as a conservationist and the environmental crisis facing the planet.

Socially distanced in the open air, the Duke of Cambridge and Sir David were offered directors’ chairs with their names printed on the back – but as a joke they sat in each other’s seats. The pair then watched the 80-minute film, and Sir David gave the Prince a copy of the accompanying book.

Socially distanced in the open air, the Duke of Cambridge and Sir David were offered directors’ chairs with their names printed on the back – but as a joke they sat in each other’s seats

The Palace aide added: ‘The Duke thought it was Sir David’s best documentary yet. It is a terrifying look at what we’ve done to the planet and where we are today, but it also offers hope and cause for optimism because if we can act now, and act together, we can turn things around.’ 

The two men have been friends for some time. William interviewed Sir David at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year and during the discussion the broadcaster and WWF ambassador warned that humanity needed to act so that it did not ‘annihilate part of the natural world’.

Last year the Duke and Duchess officially named a polar research ship after Sir David – despite the public voting to call it Boaty McBoatface – and at the ceremony Kate told the broadcaster that the children were ‘very upset’ they could not come and meet him.

Sir David’s documentary was originally due to be released in cinemas in April, with a premiere at the Royal Albert Hall. However, the film became a victim of the coronavirus lockdown, and producers had to postpone the release until this week.

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet will now be screened in cinemas tomorrow for one night only and will then be available on Netflix from October 4. The accompanying book – extracts from which The Mail on Sunday printed over the past two weeks – is out on Thursday.

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