Royal mother-to-be Princess Beatrice has spoken movingly about her experience of dyslexia – and says that if her unborn child is ‘lucky enough’ to be diagnosed with it, then she will see that as a ‘gift’.
The Queen‘s granddaughter, 33, whose first child is due later this year, was herself diagnosed with the learning difficulty, which can affect reading, writing and spelling, when she was seven.
But while she had support from an early age, Beatrice revealed ‘nobody made me feel like it was a lesser-than’ when she was diagnosed.
Speaking to Hello! magazine, she referred to it as a ‘gift’ because she feels it has offered her different skills in life, saying: ‘I think that having dyslexia and reflecting on where I am right now in my career path, and also as an older person looking back, it definitely has allowed me to look at things in a new way and come up with solutions.’
Her words echo the title of Ron Davis’ 1994 book The Gift of Dyslexia, which became an immediate best-seller and became a bible for people with dyslexia and parents of children with dyslexia.
Royal mother-to-be Princess Beatrice (pictured with husband Edo Mapelli Mozzi last week) has spoken movingly about her experience of dyslexia
The princess – seen at a lunch with friends in a floral jacket with her husband Edo Mapelli Mozzi last week – revealed in the interview that he also has the condition.
She also described her role as a stepmother to Edo’s son Wolfie, five, calling him her ‘bonus son’ – but admitted that home-schooling him during lockdown had been a challenge.
Beatrice was talking to author Giovanna Fletcher for Hello!’s Back to School digital issue, online now.
The Duke and Duchess of York’s daughter said that ‘if any child, any bonus son, or future babies that are on their way, are lucky enough to be diagnosed with dyslexia, I feel incredibly grateful to have tools such as the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity [that she’s patron of] to be able to tap into, to give them that extra support.’
The Princess said that if her unborn child is ‘lucky enough’ to be diagnosed with it, then she will see that as a ‘gift’. Pictured: Beatrice with husband Edo Mapelli Mozzi last week
She said: ‘My husband’s also dyslexic… but I really see it as a gift.’
Beatrice said she considered herself lucky to have dyslexia, saying: ‘I think that having dyslexia and reflecting on where I am right now in my career path, and also as an older person looking back, it definitely has allowed me to look at things in a new way and come up with solutions.
‘I always describe it like being able to think in a circle. Yes, my spelling is appalling, and I wish that I could do something about that.
Princess Beatrice’s ‘gift’: The common learning difficulty that impacts 1 in 10 people in the UK
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling.
It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing.
Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn’t affected.
It’s estimated up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis, but support is available to improve reading and writing skills and help those with the problem be successful at school and work.
Signs of dyslexia usually become apparent when a child starts school and begins to focus more on learning how to read and write.
A person with dyslexia may:
- read and write very slowly
- confuse the order of letters in words
- put letters the wrong way round (such as writing ‘b’ instead of ‘d’)
- have poor or inconsistent spelling
- understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that’s written down
- find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
- struggle with planning and organisation
But people with dyslexia often have good skills in other areas, such as creative thinking and problem solving.
‘But luckily, spellcheck has sorted that out for me.’
Beatrice added: ‘I think life is about the moments, it’s the challenges that make you. Of course, I would never want there to be any difficult situations.
‘But I feel like if we’re able to embrace some of the tools that we have from the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity and other organisations, then I feel very, very lucky that we can have this conversation.’
Speaking about her step-son, Beatrice, who married her husband in a private ceremony at Windsor last year, said: ‘Homeschooling, that was definitely not my forte! Not going to lie. Sadly, I can’t blame that on dyslexia.
‘But I’ve felt very lucky to have had the chance to work with my bonus son (Wolfie) over the course of the school closures. It was a huge learning curve for all of us.’
Beatrice also spoke openly about her passion to increase understanding of dyslexia and de-stigmatise any negative associations with it.
The princess, who admitted that she struggled to understand why words appeared so ‘muddled’ before her diagnosis, said she hoped sharing her own story would help ‘shift the narrative’.
‘I was very lucky that when I was first told that I had dyslexia, not one person around me ever made me feel like it was a ‘lesser than’ scenario. It was always about moving forward, it was always about what you could do. Never about what you can’t,’ she explained.
‘That’s something that’s really, really important to me. I find it very inspiring every day to talk about it. Because if you can just change one little idea in someone’s head, then you’ve done a great thing.’
Andy Cook, chief executive at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, which supports more than a thousand children and adults with dyslexia each year, said: ‘It means the world to us that we have a Patron who is so closely involved with the charity, and so willing to talk candidly about her own personal experience of dyslexia.
‘Hopefully others will feel inspired to speak out about their dyslexia too, and to make the most of the gifts that dyslexia brings and to seek support if they are struggling with any challenges that can also arise. ‘
He explained that there is a tendency for dyslexia to run through families, adding: ‘There is an undoubted tendency for dyslexia to run in families, although sometimes it will skip a generation or be passed on to one sibling but not another.
‘Many of the children we see at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity have parents who are also dyslexic, some of them only realising this when their children have been assessed.
Beatrice also spoke openly about her passion to increase understanding of dyslexia and de-stigmatise any negative associations with it. Pictured: Beatrice and Edo at the Wimbledon Championships in July
‘For these families, home-schooling was not easy: dyslexic parents attempting to home school their dyslexic children was often something that did not go well.’
Earlier this year, Beatrice who has been candid about her own struggles with dyslexia growing up, was filmed narrating Xtraordinary People, published by Penguin Random House Children’s, from her home at St James’s Palace.
The book was written by Kate Griggs, the founder of global charity Made By Dyslexia, of which Beatrice is an ambassador, and the foreword was penned by Sir Richard Branson, who is also dyslexic.
Xtraordinary People encourages children to embrace the strengths they gain from dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects reading and writing.
The royal, who was diagnosed aged seven, said she now sees her dyslexia as a ‘tremendous gift’ and wants to help children to learn from their strengths ahead of International Children’s Book Day on April 2.
In another video, the royal was seen reading a few pages from the book, including how having dyslexia can help children access certain jobs, due to their ‘xtraordinary way of thinking.’
The book presents dyslexia as a ‘superpower’ that children can tap into to progress in life.
‘People ‘Made by Dyslexia’ are very good at certain things. Some people call them our ‘superpowers’,’ Beatrice read.
‘We say that is what makes us Xtraordinary. You see, when you’re dyslexic, you think a little different to people who not dyslexic.
‘This Xtraordinary way of thinking males us very good at all sorts of things.’
Princess Beatrice on her Dyslexia
In May 2020, Princess Beatrice opened about her dyslexia in a video for Made By Dyslexia.
The royal said she struggled at school, while her close friends appeared to be ‘so far ahead’, revealing: ‘I think at that stage, those moments of doubt just pop into your head. I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough. Why am I not like the others?’
In the video clip, which was shared by the charity’s Youtube channel, she continued, ‘I think when you’re in the classroom, those moments are very defining.’
Speaking in the new video, she revealed: ‘I was very lucky, I got to go to a school that was very nurturing and very supportive, but I would describe the actual day-to-day learning side of things very challenging.’
Princess Beatrice went on to recall one particular memory from childhood, explaining: ‘We had different colored books to describe how far where your reading levels had got to and I was always on the white books.
‘My best friends were always on the yellow books or the green books. They were so far ahead.’
She said the experience led her to ‘doubt’ herself, adding: ‘I think if I were to say to my younger self do not be defined by those moments that happened to you in that exam or that classroom because they are lifelong learnings.
‘They are lessons that you carry with you, and they build you up to be who you are.’
She said: ‘I’m very lucky I’ve been able to find a job that relies on my communication skills, and not just sitting behind a desk.
‘A lot of my colleagues also have dyslexia because we work in a tech company that is always about looking at things different.
‘I think that’s one of the strengths we have as dyslexic is to look at things differently, be a problem solver, find new ways to do things, be experimental, entrepreneurial.’
She said: ‘It develops as you develop, it grows. It’s part of you, it’s part of how your brain develops.
‘It is not something that is wrong with you. It is a great part of how your brain works, and everybody’s brain works incredibly differently,’ she said. ‘There is nothing wrong, there is just everything that is so right.’