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Honorary degree for former journalist and best-selling author

8th July 2022

Northumbria University has awarded a Doctor of Letters to author Bernard Cornwell OBE for his contribution to journalism and literature.

The renowned writer is best-known for creating two historical anthologies set in turbulent times: The Last Kingdom and Sharpe. Both series of novels have been successfully adapted for television which continue to delight viewers across the globe. This stellar career, has seen Bernard write over 60 books selling well over 30 million copies worldwide.

Prior to becoming an author, Bernard read history at London University, spending time as a teacher before joining BBC television working on the Nationwide programme. He went on to be Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland, where the young reporters of the day included Gavin Esler and Jeremy Paxman.

After four years in Ireland, Bernard moved to Thames TV as News Editor. But the rising star of television was sent into a whole different orbit when he met, fell in love with and married his American wife Judy in 1980.

Denied an American work-permit, he thought he might earn a living as a writer. As a child he had been enthralled by the Hornblower novels of C S Forester, so he decided to write what he calls a ‘Hornblower on land’ series and Sharpe was born. Latterly, Bernard was inspired to write The Last Kingdom after his birth father showed him their family tree going back to the sixth century. The family were Lords of Bebbanburg, now known as Bamburgh with its famous castle as the historic seat of the former Kings of Northumbria.

Speaking about his Honorary Degree, Bernard said: “From Northumbrian roots to a writer’s life on Cape Cod, I’ve had an exciting seventy-eight years, and am delighted to be returning to Northumbria where, some 1300 years ago, the tale began.”

During his visit to the University, Bernard spoke to students from its Creative Writing and English Literature courses to share his experiences, tips and advice to future writers and creatives. He received his Honorary Degree during the University’s summer graduation ceremonies on its Newcastle City Campus. The ceremonies celebrated a number of other honorary graduates and almost 6,000 students across five days.

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