The Monarchy and Norfolk

The Late Queen Elizabeth II once remarked that the people of Norfolk held a ‘special place’ in her affections. Sandringham is the much-loved Norfolk retreat of the Royal Family and has been the private home to generations of British monarchs since 1862.

The Royal connection with Norfolk began with William the Conqueror and is exemplified by visits in more recent times for a variety of worthy causes and significant occasions.

King Charles III and Norfolk

King Charles III has enjoyed a close relationship with Norfolk, following in the footsteps of his late mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This is exemplified by visits to Sandringham, The Royal Norfolk Show and other less formal occasions.

In July 2022, the then Prince Charles delighted the inhabitants of the coastal town of Cley in North Norfolk when he attended a Music in Country Churches concert, with the proceeds going to the fundraising appeal for the local Wiveton church. The concert initiative was set up in 1989 with the support of the Prince to raise funds for the maintenance of churches.

A much younger Charles became part of one village’s folklore back in 1959 when the prince and two of his friends were moved to the Pleasureboat Inn at Hickling Broad, their original lodging at Whiteslea Lodge having flooded. The landlady and her husband were sworn to secrecy and the local drinkers had no idea that royalty was in the building. The story goes that one afternoon Charles and his chums had a ferocious pillow fight in one of the rooms, causing his father Prince Philip to ask the landlady to intervene! He said warmly in a letter to the former landlady on her 90th birthday: ‘I have particularly fond memories of the time we stayed at the Pleasureboat Inn all those years ago and I have certainly never forgotten the famous landlady.’

King Charles attends the Royal Norfolk Show in 2016. Credit: Archant

Other past trips to Norfolk by Charles include visits to the Royal Norfolk Show, Norwich’s school of environmental sciences, Houghton Hall and the Sandringham Flower Show.

The King has said he will continue to spend Christmas at Sandringham, just as his mother did, and her father before her.

Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen enjoyed a close, personal relationship with the county of Norfolk. As Lady Dannatt wrote in her tribute to The Queen in September 2022:

“Here in Norfolk, we felt a very special connection to The Queen through her family home at Sandringham. It is the home she has come back to almost every Christmas for generations, St Mary Magdalene, the church where she worshipped, Wood Farm the small farmhouse where Prince Philip chose to spend his retirement. Her Majesty was a much-loved member of the Sandringham and District Women’s Institute, presenter of prizes at the Sunday School, and a keen supporter of the annual Sandringham Flower Show.”

‘Sandringham proved a sanctuary, a place of near normality, where The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh could oft pass unremarked upon, thanks to the loyalty and discretion of friends and locals alike. Thus, the deep affection Her Majesty shared with The Duke of Edinburgh for this remote northern corner of East Anglia where “the sky meets the sea” was repaid tenfold by its inhabitants.”

Queen Elizabeth visited King’s Lynn and Hunstanton in 1953 after crushing floods claimed 100 lives across the country, 31 being lost along the South Beach. She would join hunts at Sporle, near Swaffham, and visited the Royal Norfolk Regiment, RAF Marham and the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

The Royal Family would also cycle out to the fields to watch the harvest and enjoy the Royal Sandringham Flower Show, which has now grown immeasurably from the village fete-style event it was when Elizabeth first attended. Prince Philip, present for much of the Queen’s time at Sandringham, chose to make the estate his home after his retirement from public life in 2017. He resided at Wood Farm Cottage at Wolferton on the shores of The Wash until his death in 2021.

Two Important Christmas Messages from Sandringham

Queen Elizabeth II’s first broadcast

After her Accession on 6 February 1952, The Queen broadcast her first Christmas Message live on the radio from her study at Sandringham. In her message, she paid tribute to her late father, and asked people to remember her at the time of her Coronation the following June.

First Televised Message

The Queen’s 1957 Christmas Broadcast was a historic event, as it was the first to be televised. It was also the 25th anniversary of the first Christmas Broadcast on the radio. The broadcast was made live from the Long Library at Sandringham.

Royal Patronage in Norfolk

Members of the Royal Family have links with hundreds of charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organisations. Some are well known, while others may be smaller bodies working in a very specialist area or on a local basis only.

Having a Royal patron or president provides vital publicity for the work of these organisations and allows their enormous achievements and contributions to society to be recognised. Examples of Norfolk beneficiaries of The Queen’s patronage are:

King George VI

George VI visited Norfolk on numerous occasions, heading to Sandringham and other locations as part of his royal duties.

In 1938 he visited the city of Norwich. One thousand schoolchildren were assembled to line the path as he approached City Hall, where the Royal Standard was unfurled. The King would then head to Carrow Road to watch the start of the game between Norwich City and Millwall, meeting the players while the Queen (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother as we knew her) went to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to open the Geoffrey Colman Memorial.

One of the last pictures taken of the King and Princess Elizabeth.