Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is ringing in 70 with a special early birthday message

By Simon Perry
July 11, 2017 09:00 AM
Credit: Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall received a special early birthday message on Tuesday — on a London bus!

The royal turns 70 on July 17 and celebrated her upcoming milestone birthday with schoolchildren who helped select 70 of the U.K.’s favorite children’s books.

Also at Camilla and Prince Charles’ Clarence House residence for the culmination of the Duchess’s Bookshelves Project, that had combined six literacy-focused charities and initiatives of which Camilla is linked, were some of the kids’ favorite authors, including comedian David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson.

The children also made a special entrance, arriving at Clarence House in the bus with Walliams.

At the party, she thanked guests for her early birthday present.

“I’m thrilled to be patron of so many literacy charities. It’s something I love more than anything,” she said. “People always say thank you but its no hardship for me. I love meeting all the children. I know most of the books backwards because I read them to my grandchildren. I will have a terrible time with them fighting over this bookshelf. I am going to plonk it somewhere in the middle and let them borrow them.”

And she added with a smile: “I would also like to stress that it isn’t quite my birthday yet. I am hanging onto the last few days!”

She recently helped award kids for their storytelling at the finals for the 500 Words competition for children, run by BBC Radio 2 (which Camilla launched with a special cartoon). “She always talks to me about her grandkids and reading,” BBC presenter Chris Evans tells PEOPLE. “She likes the [contest’s] kids because of the lack of pretense. She just is a grandma.”

He adds, “She loves reading and reading to her grandkids — she thinks it’s really, really important it’s one of her genuine campaigns. The first time I met her at Clarence House, I thought I’d be having a meeting in her office. But she said come into her living room – where the TV remote and all the magazines were — and she said ‘What are we going to do?’ Straight away it was very low key and very effective.”