The Duchess of Cornwall has consoled Richard E Grant whose wife died last month, telling the bereaved actor she was “looking down” on him.

Camilla met the celebrity when she invited famous names from the world of arts and literature to her Clarence House home to celebrate her Instagram book club called the Reading Room.

After the duchess put a comforting hand on Grant, whose wife reportedly died from cancer, the actor said: “The duchess knew my wife very well, who died last month.

“She was talking about her.

“She was very supportive.”

The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room Reception
The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with Edward Fox (centre) and Charles Dance (right) during her reception celebrating her Reading Room project (Ian Jones/PA)

Describing the duchess’s initiative as “marvellous” the actor who was born in Swaziland added: “I grew up in a country where there was no television service, so I have been an avid reader since I was four years old.

“Lockdown I think encouraged or allowed people to read much more than in normal circumstances.

“Reading has been the gateway for everything I known or liked in life.

“And it’s cheaper than anything.”

Guests at the reception included Dame Judi Dench, Hilary Mantel, Tom Stoppard, William Boyd, Edward Fox and Charles Dance.

In a speech, the duchess said: “I particularly wanted to say a huge thank you to all the writers here this afternoon for sharing your incredible stories with us readers.

“You will never know how many lives you have touched, or how much joy, laughter, companionship and comfort you have brought to book lovers all over the world, especially during these challenging times.”

The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room Reception
Charles chats to Dame Judi Dench during his wife’s event (Ian Jones/PA)

Camilla revealed she was amazed by her Reading Room’s 116,000 followers: “As a complete technophobe, and knowing very little about Instagram, I never cease to be amazed how I have acquired so many followers.

“On reflection, that is, of course, thanks to all of you…”

The duchess made it a family occasion inviting her daughter, Laura Lopes, son-in-law and three of her grandchildren.

The Prince of Wales also briefly joined the gathering and had a drink after returning from an event.

Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel said she was “desperately concerned” about younger readers access to libraries which have faced closure or an uncertain future during the past decade.

She said: “Without my local library I would never have become a writer, I would never even have become a reader.

“I am desperately concerned about access to literature for the young.”