Speaking moments after she received a damehood for services to the study of classical civilisation from William at Buckingham Palace, Dame Mary told the Press Association: “Well, I hope he [William] was listening. Of course he was very polite and said: ‘I’ll have to get you to teach them’, and I said: ‘Anything!’”
She joked: “I didn’t quite say: ‘You get the little squits to learn Latin…’ but I did say you get them to learn because it is very important.
“It’s important to learn where we’ve been and where we’ve come from, and for people to have access to some of the most extraordinary and influential literature in world culture.
“That kind of direct connection with something so influential written so long ago is, I think, terribly important.
“Of course, because it was a very happy and joyous occasion in which we were being friends, he left me with the strong impression that his children would be learning Latin.
“But he was bound to. It would be rude for him – and I’m sure he wouldn’t – to say: ‘Well we looked at that and we really think it’s a waste of time’.
“Gratified as I was to feel his general warmth over this, I think I’d be foolish to think I single-handedly convinced him to teach them Latin.”
Dame Mary was at the palace five years on from receiving her OBE for services to classical scholarship.
The Cambridge University professor previously said she had “a “touch of republican” about her, but felt much more comfortable accepting the honour now she was “older and wiser”.
The 63-year-old said on Friday: “Had somebody said to me at 23 that I would accept a damehood of the British empire, I would have said: ‘Sorry, sunshine, that’s not what my politics is all about’.