Camilla admits she gets ‘quite ratty’ if anyone interrupts The Archers

“Archers addict” the Duchess of Cornwall has joked she has been known to become “quite ratty” if disturbed while listening to the long-running rural soap.

Camilla, who has been a huge fan of the drama charting the ups and downs of life in fictional Ambridge for many years, hosted a reception for cast and crew to mark the 70th anniversary of the popular BBC Radio 4 show.

A scene written for the occasion was recorded as Camilla watched, and featured characters Ben Archer, Lilian Bellamy and Lynda Snell discussing how a ferret had escaped from bag and was on the loose at Clarence House.

The excerpt featured on The Archers’ Twitter feed, with the post reading: “The perils of inviting #TheArchers to your house! @ClarenceHouse hope you can track down the renegade guest!”

The skit was intended as a standalone piece of entertainment and will not be heard on air.

In a speech to the actors, writers and production team, Camilla told how she suffered “severe withdrawal symptoms” when the series, which started in 1951, was forced to feature characters having one-way conversation as a result of lockdown restrictions.

There was also a reduction in the number of episodes each week.

The duchess also praised the programme for raising awareness of challenging topics such as homophobia, modern slavery, alcohol addiction, domestic violence and coercive control.

“For 70 years of raising awareness of others’ hidden struggles, we are deeply grateful,” she said at the reception on Tuesday.

Camilla, who once made a cameo appearance in the show, said The Archers had been “a faithful companion for a large part of my life”.

The duchess said: “For as long as I can remember, I have loved this programme.

“It has been my faithful companion for a large part of my life. Like many other Archers addicts, I have been known to become quite ratty if disturbed between 7pm and 7:15pm – and, like thousands of others, had severe withdrawal symptoms when you all but disappeared during lockdown.

“But I’m very glad you’re back, let’s keep it that way.”

Camilla said that the show was famous for its “gentle wit, accurate description of rural life and wonderful characterisation”.

She added: “But you have never shied away from more challenging topics.

“Over the decades, you have tackled homophobia, racism, discrimination, modern slavery, alcohol addiction, domestic violence and coercive control.

“Thanks to the light that you have shone on these, and other painful subjects, millions of people now have a better understanding of them – and have been equipped with the tools to respond effectively when they encounter such issues in their own lives.”

In 2011, Camilla’s cameo, during a visit to BBC Birmingham, was part of a special episode to mark the 60th anniversary.

She said: “I was thrilled to be asked to appear in an episode ten years ago – although, not being a noted thespian, I was only entrusted to play myself.”

She told the cast and crew it was nice to put names to the faces, adding: “Now let us look forward to the next 70 years in Ambridge. Please don’t let anything to hinder your broadcasts.”

She watched the actors record the scene, in which Ben Archer, played by Ben Norris, discovers the ferret is missing at Clarence House and suggests handing out string for men to put around the ends of their trousers.

Ben tells how the ferret, bred from one of Joe Grundy’s ferrets, is “naturally drawn to trouser legs”.

In another part, Lilian, played by Sunny Ormonde, could be heard trying to dissuade Lynda, played by Carole Boyd, from going upstairs to explore.

Lilian exclaims: “This is Clarence House. You cannot roam free through Clarence House… You’ll be felled by a Beefeater or something.”

Lynda replied she would be fine as she had an MBE, adding: “I’m not snooping. I’m on mission.”

In her speech the duchess remarked it was a huge pleasure to welcome everyone, adding: “MBEs, of course, are particularly welcome – ferrets rather less so…”

Camilla, wearing an Archers badge, was joined by June Spencer, the 102-year-old who plays Peggy Woolley and is the only surviving character of the soap’s original cast, to cut an Archers-themed tractor cake.

The duchess’s efforts to coax spoilers out of the cast were rebuffed by laughing guests who were welcomed to the hour-long event which featured sparkling wine, roaring fires and a Christmas tree.

She remarked over the difference in the real-life appearance of actors and how she imagined them to look during radio broadcasts.

The programme still has strict coronavirus measures in place, with many of the actors meeting for the first time in nearly two years at the Clarence House event.

Speaking to Hollie Chapman, who plays Alice Carter, Camilla asked after a recent storyline about Alice’s battle with alcoholism.

“I’m not a method actor, I promise,” Chapman joked. The Duchess asked: “I hope it’s getting better…?”

“We will see.. Nice try” Chapman replied, declining to give a clue as to future plots.