Richard George William Pitt Booth, MBE (born 12 September 1938 in Hay-on-Wye, Wales), is a Welsh bookseller, known for his contribution to the success of Hay-on-Wye as a centre for second-hand bookselling. He is also the self-proclaimed "King of Hay".
He was educated at Rugby School and the University of Oxford, yet he dreaded seeing how young men like himself left his hometown for the city, and wondered what trade could save this small rural economy. Having inherited the Brynmelyn estate from his uncle, Major Willie Booth, he then opened a second-hand bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, in the old fire station, and took the strongest men of Hay to America, where libraries were closing fast. They bought and shipped books in containers back to Hay-on-Wye. His example was followed by others, so that by the 1970s Hay had become internationally known as the "Town of Books".
On 1 April 1977 Richard Booth proclaimed Hay an "independent kingdom" with himself as king Richard Cœur de Livre and his horse as Prime Minister. The publicity stunt gained extensive news coverage, and resulted in several spin-offs such as "passports" being issued.
On 1 April 2000 Booth followed up with an investiture of "The Hay House of Lords" and created 21 new hereditary peers for the "Kingdom of Hay".
The Hay Literary Festival was another spin-off from the burgeoning number of bookshops in the town, which now gets an estimated 500,000 tourists a year. In recognition of his services to tourism, Richard Booth was awarded the MBE in the 2004 New Year Honours List. In August 2005, Richard Booth announced that he was selling his Hay bookshop and moving to Germany. The bookshop is now under ownership of Elizabeth Haycox and has had extensive refurbishment works carried out since 2009.
In the end Richard Booth didn't move to Germany but still lives in Brynmelyn and is still very much the King of Hay. He now, 2014, owns a bookshop in the town called, appropriately The King of Hay.
He married his second wife Hope Stuart, a former freelance photographer, in the 1980s. In 1999, he published his autobiography, My Kingdom of Books (Y Lolfa, ISBN 0862434955), with the help of his stepdaughter Lucia Stuart.
In 2014 Richard Booth gave his name to an annual literary award in association with the Hay Writers’ Circle. Judges and winners of the Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction are as follows:
2014 – Judge – Rachel Cooke - Winner - Jo Jones
Welsh Assembly elections
|1999||Mid and West Wales||SLP||3,019||1.4||Not elected|
European Parliament elections
|2009||Wales||SLP||12,402||1.8||Not-elected||Multi-member constituency; party list|