LONDON -- The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are to lead celebrations to mark today's 200th anniversary of the birth of famed British author Charles Dickens.
Events to be held across the country include a wreath-laying ceremony at Dickens' grave in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, and at his birthplace in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
The congregation at Westminster Abbey will include the largest ever gathering of descendants of the Victorian novelist as well as representatives from the worlds of literature, film, theatre and the media.
Charles will lay a wreath on Dickens' grave where he was buried in 1870.
The author had asked to be buried at Rochester Cathedral but a public outcry led to him being placed in Poets' Corner.
Ralph Fiennes, who will next be seen as Magwitch in a new film adaptation of "Great Expectations," will read an extract from "Bleak House" with readings also being given by Mark Dickens, great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, and biographer Claire Tomalin.
The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: "Dickens' humanity and compassion made an extraordinary impact on Victorian England through his writings, which remain immensely popular. This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day."
Before the ceremony, Charles and Camilla will visit the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street, London, where they will be given a reading by Gillian Anderson, who played Miss Havisham in the BBC's recent adaptation of Great Expectations.
Star of Four Weddings And A Funeral and biographer of Dickens, Simon Callow, will be heading events in Portsmouth.
Callow, author of Charles Dickens And The Great Theatre Of The World, will read from David Copperfield at a service being held at St Mary's Church, Portsmouth. He said: "It's going to be a dangerously moving occasion. I really made the strong decision to come to the place where he was born rather than to Westminster Cathedral where he never wanted to be."