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Camilla causes uproar in naming 'Mousie' favourite childhood book

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 19, 2011

  • The Duchess fusses over a pony with Valerie Sherwin, of Moorland Mousie Trust

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The name Moorland Mousie doesn't exactly conjure visions of controversy – and nor should it because it's the name of a worthy charity which works for the welfare of the Exmoor pony.

But when a royal personage mentioned the cosy sounding moniker this week she managed to unsettle the proverbial hornets' nest. Or to put it another way: "The worst storm in a teacup I've seen in years…"

That was the view of an elderly lady leaving an Exmoor village shop yesterday after reading in a national newspaper that the Duchess of Cornwall had upset some animal lovers by naming Moorland Mousie as her favourite childhood book.

Moorland Mousie, written in 1929, is a romping yarn about an Exmoor pony – and its name was adopted in 1998 by the charity set up to help save the breed from extinction.

The story, written by Muriel Wace under the pseudonym "Golden Gorse" and illustrated by Lionel Edwards, is based on a real pony and the Exmoor family who cared for it – and does, some would say accurately, feature stag-hunting.

"Everybody hunted on Exmoor in those days. Without exception. That was just the way life was," said the storm-in-teacup lady before getting into her Land Rover and driving off in high dudgeon.

She was not the only person who wafted away journalistic inquires. Most Exmoor dwellers approached by the Western Morning News thought it either crazy or just plain mischievous that anyone should be making anything out of the Duchess's choice of favourite children's book.

Her Royal Highness made the selection after being requested to name a book of the month by Give a Book, a charity which helps children who struggle with reading.

"This wonderful book brings back many happy memories of the hours my sister and I spent galloping over the moors with Moorland Mousie and his friends," is how the Duchess explained her choice. "I hope that children today will love it as much as we did."

But members of the anti-blood-sports lobby complained yesterday that the Duchess's choice was a subversive attempt to win over a new generation to hunting, claiming the book was "staunchly in favour of field sports".

Such talk is an anathema for many on Exmoor – although it was pointed out that the Duchess ought to have claimed an altruistic interest in the book's sales – she is patron of the Moorland Mousie Trust which owns the rights to the book and has recently re-published it in a bid to raise funds.

The charity's Jean Lillis said: "The Duchess has been to visit us and see our work at the Exmoor Pony Centre twice now and has written the forward to the book.

"The Exmoor Pony is the oldest native British breed of horse, but numbers were severely diminished over the years so that now it is category two on the endangered species list," she said.

As for hunting being featured in the book she said: "We have put a note on the back cover saying this is a work of its time – written in 1929 when fox and stag hunting really was a part of life for everyone on these hills."

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