Duchess of Cornwall meets penpals at Sandringham Flower Show

Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall tour the Sandringham Flower Show MLNF14AM07300
Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall tour the Sandringham Flower Show MLNF14AM07300
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The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles stopped to talk to dozens of people in the waiting crowds at the 133rd Sandringham Flower Show - but not all of them were strangers, it emerged.

The show, it seems, proved the perfect opportunity for The Duchess to finally put faces to names of people she has become penpals with.

The duchess asked Mary French, of Chelmsford, Essex, to hold up a sign with her name on it so she could finally meet her.

Mary said: “I have been writing to her for well over 15 years. She is one of my favourite royals. I tell her about my grandchildren and I ask about hers. She’s thrilled to bits to be a grandmother.”

A number of others who chatted with Camilla revealed they had also been writing to her and receiving handwritten responses for years.

Sharon Paroli, 51, who has just emigrated to Nottinghamshire from Australia, managed to attract the attention of The Duchess and Prince Charles who each stopped for a chat.

Mrs Paroli said: “I have been in correspondence with The Duchess for a couple of years now.

“I just really liked her so I wrote to her. I wrote thinking I would never get a reply but she kept replying with handwritten notes.

“We talk about our grandchildren and she asked about my move from Australia.

“Today, she said it was nice to put a face to a name. I’m absolutely thrilled and it was lovely to meet Prince Charles as well.”

Phil Smith, 50, of Northampton, said The Duchess stopped to talk to him at the flower show years ago because she liked his cowboy hat.

He said: “I wrote to her when she got married and she wrote back. She sent me a 50th birthday card.

“Today, she told me she was looking forward to her holidays and asked if we had a nice time in the Canaries.”

The show, with its garden party atmosphere, featured marching bands, a fairground, around 200 trade stands - most of them focussing on gardening and horticulture - crafts and main arena entertainment, including motorcycle stunts, dog obedience, an equine display and aerobatics.

The main marquees featured competitions for flowers, vegetables and produce and there were classes for gardening clubs plus a celebrity gardeners’ forum and a section for professional garden design.

Profits are donated to local charities and, since 1977, the committee has given more than £500,000 to good causes.

As is traditional, the Royal couple arrived in horse-drawn carriage and were presented with a posy by a child from one of the nearby primary schools.

This year, five-year-old Holly Ford’s name was drawn out of a hat to complete the presentation. Her parents Sallee Ford and Owen Bottle looked on proudly.

The Ingoldisthorpe Primary School pupil spent weeks practising her curtsey, which drew awws from onlookers and was praised by The Duchess.

Holly said: “She said I had a lovely dress on.”

The royal couple were accompanied by guests Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

During their walk around the marquees, the Prince and Duchess, popped into Sandringham Women’s Institute’s marquee where Camilla bought a knitted toy and other members of the Royal party tried their luck with raffle tickets.

Camilla also paid her customary visit to the Osteoporosis Society stand - she is the Society’s national president - and chatted with committee members and helpers about ongoing projects.

Barbara Blacklock, who co-ordinates exercise classes at Lynn, said: “She said she was very impressed by our voluntary work and everything we are doing in West Norfolk.”

Keira Attridge, eight, and sister Natalie, 11, of Fairfield Lane, Watlington, were at the show with granny Mary Uttin, of South Wootton and got to shake Camilla’s hand.

Natalie said: “It was exciting.”

Keira said: “It felt special.”

Aimee, 39, and Kevin Jones, 47, of RAF Marham, were in the crowd with daughter Jessica Jones, nine, to watch son Samuel, 14 take part in the Air Cadets’ guard of honour.

The Prince stopped to ask if Jessica was enjoying the school holidays and the duchess commented on how pretty she looked in her summer dress.

Dedicated royal watcher Freedom Tansley, 12, of Methwold, grabbed a word with the Prince.

He said: “I asked him how he was. He said still alive – barely!’”

See Friday’s Lynn News for more pictures and Tuesday’s Lynn News for full show results,