Mary from Downham Market’s lifelong Royal collection
PUBLISHED: 16:06 06 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:58 08 August 2018
A visit to Sandringham Flower Show as a 10-year-old girl gave Mary Relph the bug for collecting all things Royal.
More than 70 years later, the retired van driver’s home at Shouldham, near Downham Market, is crammed to the rafters with memorabilia.
“When I was 10 I went to the flower show with my Mum,” she said. “It wasn’t as big then as it is now, there was just the fur and feather and the flower tent.
“It was the Queen Mum in those days. I got to have a little chat with her, but not so much as they do now.”
Books came first. Books about the Queen Mother, the Queen and her growing extended family. “I gave them all away,” she said. “I must have had 300, I gave them all to the British Heart Foundation. I had bookshelves full, so my daughter said you don’t read them so make some use of them.” The walls are lined with photographs, many featuring Mrs Relph, now 84, chatting with Royal Family members at Sandringham or Balmoral. As well as being a collector, she is an avid Royal watcher, who would think of nothing of driving to Scotland and plotting up at the crack of dawn in a good vantage point for the chance of a quick word with the Queen. The last Wednesday of every July sees her outside the Royal Marquee at Sandringham, where Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall usually stop for a chat.
One cold day at Sandringham a couple of winters back, Mrs Relph was scolded by the Queen when she saw her outside church. The monarch asked her what she was doing out on such a freezing day after her recent illness.
When she celebrated her 78th birthday with a trip to see the Queen at West Newton, Royal protection officers presented her with a cake.
One treasured item is a piece of another cake. It from the wedding of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, in 2011. It arrived with a hand-written note signed by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who had heard Mrs Relph had been unable to attend due to illness. There are hundreds of commemorative cups and plates, and souvenirs of all kinds.
“I’ve got a lot of lovely memorabilia, all behind glass,” she said. “I’ve got an invitation to Harry and Meghan’s wedding, which I couldn’t go to. I’ve got 15 whisky decanters, all Royal, all sealed.”