This morning, Prince Charles laid a wreath at the author’s grave in Poets’ Corner as part of a service at Westminster Abbey.

More than 200 of the author’s descendants attended the ceremony, which featured reading s by actor Ralph Fiennes, great-great-grandson, Mark Dickens and biographer Claire Tomalin

Charles and Camilla also visited the Charles Dickens museum in Doughty Street. It opened in 1925 in the house where the novelist lived from 1837-1839.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: “Dickens’s 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.”

A 24-hour “readathon” is also taking place in countries from Albania to Zimbabwe.

Other events to celebrate the life of the much-loved scribe include a dinner at  Mansion House, and  a Dickens newspaper and iPad app.

Also today, Time Magazine voted Bleak House as Dickens’s number one novel.