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The Queen meets and greets West Norfolk at Sandringham Jubilee reception

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The Queen was on “sparkling” form at Sandringham House as she laughed and joked at a celebratory reception on the eve of her Platinum Jubilee.

The monarch, just hours away from becoming the first British sovereign to reach a historic 70 years on the throne, joined members of the local community in the ballroom to mark her milestone.

The Little Discoverers from North Lynn, West Norfolk Befrienders and members of the West Newton WI were present as were workers from her royal estate, who she also warmly greeted, along with the borough mayor Harry Humphrey.

The Queen with her Jubilee cake (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701945)
The Queen with her Jubilee cake (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701945)

Lady Dannatt, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, presented her with a cake and the Queen spoke to guests about her memories of the terrible 1953 flood in West Norfolk.

The 95-year-old arrived at the event with a wooden walking stick she rested on sagely as she leant forward to chat to the visitors.

The Queen chatting to guests (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701982)
The Queen chatting to guests (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701982)

The guests were seated around tables waiting for a tea to be served but stood up respectfully to chat to the Queen.

Wearing an Angela Kelly Wedgwood blue crepe with white brocade dress, the Queen, who beamed with delight throughout, also carried her trademark black handbag.

She cut an iced Victoria sponge cake decorated with the Jubilee emblem to begin her Platinum year.

The Queen meets Angela Wood, who helped created coronation chicken (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701959)
The Queen meets Angela Wood, who helped created coronation chicken (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701959)

Lady Dannatt, the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, told the Queen the cake was turned upside for the benefit of the press photographs, and the monarch quipped to laughter: “I don’t matter?”

When it came to cutting the large cake, the Queen, thinking aloud, said: “I’ll put the knife in, see if it works.”

She drove the knife in vertically and left it in place, adding “somebody else can finish it off”.

The Queen at Sandringham (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701952)
The Queen at Sandringham (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701952)

Among the guests were members of the Sandringham branch of the Women’s Institute, Sandringham Estate pensioners and representatives from two local charities West Norfolk Befriending and Little Discoverers.

Yvonne Browne, vice-president and chairman of the Sandringham WI, described the Queen as being on “sparkling” form.

The event was the largest in-person public engagement the Queen had attended since before her recent health scare in mid October.

The Queen cuts the cake (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701966)
The Queen cuts the cake (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701966)

The Queen also met former cookery school student Angela Wood who helped to perfect the famous dish coronation chicken served to guests after the Queen’s 1953 Coronation ceremony.

Commenting on how the recipe for coronation chicken has likely developed over the years the Queen told Angela Wood: “It’s probably changed because in those days we did some things quite differently.”

Shaun Mason, a junior sous chef, had created tiny bite size morsels of the coronation chicken, chicken with curry spices, apricot in a savoury tartlet, and he carried a tray of his creations into the ballroom and announced they were available to sample.

The Queen leaving Sandringham House after the reception (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701975)
The Queen leaving Sandringham House after the reception (Joe Giddens/PA) (54701975)

As the morsels were placed between the Queen and Mrs Wood to try, the room erupted with laughter when the Queen quipped “I’ll go away”, she turned to add: “You can tell me (what you think) when I come back.”

On October 19, the Queen held a Windsor Castle evening reception for delegates for the Global Investment Summit.

But the next day she cancelled a two day trip to Northern Ireland, was secretly admitted to hospital for preliminary tests, before being put under doctors’ orders to rest and only carry out light duties.

Before the pandemic the Queen would visit her WI colleagues at West Newton village hall every year as part of her winter stay on her Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated across the country during an extended June Bank Holiday in honour of a monarch who has left an indelible mark on the life of the nation.

But February 6, the date of the Queen’s accession to the throne, is a poignant period for the Queen, as it is the day her father King George VI died in 1952.

She is already the nation’s longest reigning monarch, and the longest still-serving sovereign in the world.

During the reception the Queen also met representatives from West Norfolk Befriending a charity which aims to reduce the social isolation experienced by the elderly by matching them with trained volunteer befrienders who visit on a regular basis.

And she spoke to members of Little Discoverers which provides early education for pre-school children with movement difficulties and delayed development.

The Queen stopped to chat a group of former Sandringham Estate workers and told them: “I haven’t seen you for a very long time.”

Reminiscing about the devastating floods in 1953 that affected Norfolk and the surrounding counties, she said: “I remember sitting at dinner, the fire alarm went off, no fire, the sea was coming in.”

She added: “It’s a very nasty experience, you go to the top of the (sea) wall and it’s there,” and she raised her hand to her face as if indicating the level of the sea.

The Queen is thought to have been staying in the Duke of Edinburgh’s cottage, Wood Farm, while at Sandringham, and she said her late husband “loved it” and part of its attraction was because the “sea was so close”.

Despite the recent concerns about her health, the Queen moved freely and appeared to use her stick more to lean on when she stopped moving rather than depending on it to walk.

Teresa Thompson, 70, the retired housekeeper of Wood Farm, said after chatting to the Queen: “All the royal family love Wood Farm, because it’s out of the way, it’s small, It’s intimate. You haven’t got lots of officials and household, it’s just the close staff.

“And they literally can relax in the family house, it’s wonderful, and I had a wonderful 22 years down there, it was the best time of my life without a doubt.”

When the Queen was presented with a copy of a “Loyal Address” written by primary schoolchildren from West Norfolk, she gave a frank opinion on the public proclamations she has heard during her long reign.

“Most addresses are usually pompous – this is so much nicer,” she said to laughter from guests.

The words read: “You have shown a caring manner, determination, and dedication to help other people. We think you’re doing a great job! We are very lucky to have had you as our Queen for so long.

“We are proud of you for helping us through this pandemic with your inspirational words, and by your actions setting a good example, especially as the last year has been so hard for you.”

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