The Duchess of Cornwall took pains in her speech at the London Press Club Awards ceremony to emphasise the importance of free speech.

“I believe passionately in freedom of expression,” she told the audience of over 150 LPC members and their guests at the Berkeley Hotel in London.

“It is our right to speak freely. Please let us not become too politically correct, because political correctness is as severe a form of censorship as any,” she said.

She went on, however, to lament what she said was a tendency to “publicise only cruel jokes directed at easy targets”.

Speaking of the royal wedding, The Duchess said the occasion provided the country with a “much-needed sense of wellbeing, and a reason to make us proud to be British”, and she looked ahead to next year’s Olympic Games as another opportunity to showcase “what is splendid about our country”.

The Duchess was presenting the 21st annual London Press Club Awards, which were hosted by her husband The Prince of Wales in 2002.

Below is the full text of her speech along with a gallery of images from the event.

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A speech by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to the London Press Club Awards

11th May 2011

I want to begin by thanking you for  inviting me here today. I can’t help feeling that you may have been  surprised that I accepted – I certainly was. When it comes to the press,  you have probably guessed that my motto is ‘No news is good news!’

But I wanted to take this opportunity of  talking about something that matters deeply to me but which I feel  sometimes goes unnoticed, and that is to celebrate what is best about  Britain.

Oh yes, I know I will be accused of  indulging in nostalgia, of regretting the passing of a time that is gone  forever and, some will say, never really existed. But I want to assure  you that neither nostalgia nor regret play any part in what I want to  talk about. On the contrary, I want to draw attention to the here and  now, to British virtues as I encounter them on a daily basis.

I am happy to say that I can begin with  something enormously positive. In the last two or three years, there has  been a concerted and I think a hugely successful effort to honour and  support our armed services. The young men and women who dedicate their  lives to defending us come, as you well know, from all walks of life and  from every part of the United Kingdom and cannot be praised enough. I  have the good fortune to meet and talk to them often and I never fail to  be impressed by their decency and integrity. Their commitment to our  well-being is – or should be – an inspiration to everyone of us. And it  has been encouraging to read in the papers and to see on television  honour being paid to their role in society. As examples of what is  splendid about our country they cannot be bettered.  And there are other  outstanding examples of heroism and selflessness – stories that would  remain hidden if not for our newspapers’ tradition of uncovering and  celebrating the daily triumph of those who battle against the odds – and  win. We have only to watch The Mirror’s Pride of Britain and The Sun’s  Millies awards to feel humbled and compassionate. These are, of course,  events that receive national publicity, but up and down the country  local and regional newspapers celebrate success within their communities  and campaign for issues vital to their readers.

And when we talk of courage, I want also  to pay tribute to the foreign correspondents – to the cameramen and the  photographers – who operate all over the world – every minute of the  day and night -and often in the most difficult and dangerous  circumstances. It is they who make us vividly aware of the tragedies and  triumphs of those beset by natural disasters or by political upheaval.

Of course, you might expect me to extol  the virtues of celebrating our successes. But I also take enormous pride  in our ability to question, debate and criticise all aspects of our  society. I believe passionately in freedom of expression. I believe  freedom of expression, so long as it doesn’t contravene the law, or  offend others, to be at the heart of our democratic system. In this, you  play a vital, if not pivotal role. But just one note of caution: in our  right to speak freely, please let us not become too politically  correct, because surely political correctness is as severe a form of  censorship as any.

And what about our ability to laugh at  ourselves? The British sense of humour has, I’ve always thought, drawn  its inspiration from a generosity of spirit. Yes, it can be ridiculous,  and cutting, naughty and incisive, affectionate and subversive, but  there is a tendency now to publicize only cruel jokes directed at easy  targets. We are a tolerant society. We are still renowned the world over  for our sense of fair play. We champion the underdog. These are British  virtues and virtues that ought now, especially now, to be celebrated.

Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, during these  austere times there are opportunities approaching which will provide an  ideal platform to launch a sustained campaign to honour our country with  pride and without apology. We have already witnessed a huge display of  patriotism at a certain wedding the other week, which I am told was  watched by 2 billion people all over the world. It provided, I believe, a  much needed boost to our sense of well-being and, I’m sure you’ll agree  made us proud to be British.  And next summer, London will be hosting  the Olympic Games when this country will come under relentless scrutiny  and you will have the task of making the world even more aware of what  is best about Britain – our gift for hospitality – our generosity – our  freedom of spirit.

Also next year, an outstanding event of  national and international importance when the Queen will celebrate her  Diamond Jubilee. It is an anniversary that will be observed not only in  this country but also in every part of the world where she is rightly  regarded with great affection and held in such high esteem. There can be  no greater occasion to express our enormous admiration for her  achievements and all that she has done for our country.

There is nothing shameful in expressing  pride in our values and accomplishments. And I assure you that I am very  well aware that you know far better than I do what makes news and what  doesn’t. I do know that dog bites man is not news, but these days we  seem to have an awful lot of men biting dogs and that’s simply not  British.

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Click on the image below to scroll through the gallery of photographs:

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