Richard Booth

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard Booth

Richard George William Pitt Booth.jpg
Richard Booth in 1984
Richard George William Pitt Booth

(1938-09-12)12 September 1938
Plymouth, Devon, England
Died20 August 2019(2019-08-20) (aged 80)
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
Political partySocialist Labour Party (UK)
AwardsOrder of the British Empire

Richard George William Pitt Booth MBE (12 September 1938 – 20 August 2019[1][2]) was a British bookseller, known for his contribution to the success of Hay-on-Wye as a centre for second-hand bookselling. He was also the self-proclaimed "King of Hay".


Booth was born in Plymouth, Devon. He was educated at Rugby School and Merton College, Oxford,[3] yet he dreaded seeing how young men like himself left their hometown for the city, and wondered what trade could save this[clarification needed] small rural economy. Having inherited the Brynmelyn estate from his uncle, Major Willie Booth, he 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".

In 1973, he appeared on the American game show To Tell the Truth, hosted by Garry Moore. (Episode #1555)

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.[4]

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 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 the ownership of Elizabeth Haycox and has had extensive refurbishment works carried out since 2009.

The "King of Hay" Booth memorial in Hay-on-Wye

Ultimately, Richard Booth did not move to Germany but continued to live in Brynmelyn, owning a bookshop called 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.

Literary award[edit]

In 2014, 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 have been as follows:

Year Judge Winner
2014 Rachel Cooke Jo Jones
2015 Colin McDowell Emma van Woerkom
2016 Dan Davies Juliet Foster
2017 Noel Kingsbury Ange Grunsell
2018 Oliver Bullough Marianne Rosen
2020 Rib Davis Kerry Hodges
2021 Roland White Gill Haigh 2022 Gilly Smith Lily Rose King


Booth stood as a candidate for the Socialist Labour Party in the 1999 Welsh Assembly elections[5] and Wales constituency at the 2009 European Parliament election.

Welsh Assembly elections
Year Region Party Votes % Result
1999 Mid and West Wales SLP 3,019 1.4 Not elected[6]
European Parliament elections
Year Region Party Votes % Result Notes
2009 Wales SLP 12,402 1.8 Not elected Multi-member constituency; party list


  1. ^ Owen, Twm. "The King of Hay, Richard Booth has died aged 80". Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Richard Booth died on August 20th". The Economist. 29 August 2019.
  3. ^ Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 487.
  4. ^ "Richard Booth". 11 May 2007. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Pandora". The Independent. 22 February 1999. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  6. ^ "National Assembly for Wales Election Results 1999-2007". Retrieved 23 August 2019.

External links[edit]