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Buckingham Palace To Welcome Stars For Dickens Anniversary

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Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter will be celebrating Dickens with the Queen tonight
Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter will be celebrating Dickens with the Queen tonight

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will today celebrate the 200th anniversary of the year Charles Dickens was born, joining some of his popular characters before putting on a star-studded reception this evening.

The royal couple are set to give a reception at Buckingham Palace, where guests will include members of the Dickens family as well as stars such as Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.

Bonham Carter and Fiennes are starring as Miss Havisham and Magwitch in the latest film version of Great Expectations.

Film star and Burberry model Eddie Redmayne and former 007 actress Samantha Bond will join children and professionals from Chickenshed theatre company as they take to the stage in Dickensian style.

Also getting into his role will be former Stars In Their Eyes host Matthew Kelly, who played Old Mr Turveydrop in the BBC's adaptation of Dickens' Bleak House.

Characters from the novels Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby will come together in this Chickenshed production of a new script, by actor and director Philip Franks, at the Guildhall in the City of London, marking the bicentenary of the birth of the author.

Also making an appearance at the event this evening will be Rowan Atkinson, who starred as Fagin in the West End production of Oliver!.

As part of the reception, a related exhibition of items from the Royal Collection and Royal Archives will be displayed.

It is expected that Republic, a pressure group which lobbies and campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy in the UK, will protest outside the Dickens event this afternoon.

The protest, which the group says will number 12 people, is the first in a series of demonstrations it has organised as a lead-up to a major protest at the Thames pageant on June 3.

Graham Smith, spokesman for Republic, said: "Our message is simple: this is not a national celebration, it is a royal celebration, marking another 60 years of an unaccountable and undemocratic institution.

"For so many reasons it is completely wrong for our Government and the palace to be indulging in a celebration of royal privilege and undemocratic power. We'll be making that message loud and clear over the coming months."