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With many healing thoughts - Camilla sends flowers and card to Norfolk Royal watcher who missed Christmas Day at Sandringham

PUBLISHED: 08:34 15 January 2015 | UPDATED: 08:44 15 January 2015

West Norfolk Royal watcher Mary Relph from Shouldham, with the get well message and flowers sent from the Duchess of Cornwall. Picture: Matthew Usher.

West Norfolk Royal watcher Mary Relph from Shouldham, with the get well message and flowers sent from the Duchess of Cornwall. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2015

As thousands gathered to greet the Queen on Christmas Day, a familiar face was missing from the crowd at Sandringham.

Royal watcher

Mary Relph’s home is crammed to the rafters with Royal memorabilia.

Asked why she has remained a faithful Royal watcher for three decades or more, she replies: “I love it, I just love it. I just like the Royal family and I reckon the Queen does a great job.”

She hit the headlines in 2001, when she camped out for more than 24 hours on The Mall, in London, to greet the late Queen Mother as she celebrated her 101st birthday.

A regular fixture at Sandringham, where the Royal Fanmily attend church on Christmas Day, the police presented Mrs Relph with a cake in February 2012, when she celebrated her 78th birthday by waiting in the snow to greet the Queen at West Newton church.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall usually stop for a catch-up with Mrs Relph at Sandringham Flower Show.

She believes the Duchess has a soft spot for those attending the annual summer show, because they made her feel so welcome.

Mary Relph, one of Britain’s most ardent Royal watchers, could not make the occasion, which she has attended almost every year since 1988, because she was in hospital recovering from a major operation.

But her absence did not go unnoticed in Royal circles. And when word reached the Duchess of Cornwall, she sent her some flowers.

The Duchess, who was also absent from Sandringham because of a bad back over Christmas, enclosed a hand-written card saying: “Dear Mary, These come with many healing thoughts for a speedy recovery. All my Best Wishes, Camilla.”

Retired van driver Mrs Relph, 80, said she was astonished when the bouquet of roses, hyacinths and orchids turned up at her home in Shouldham, near Downham Market.

West Norfolk Royal watcher Mary Relph from Shouldham, with the get well message and flowers sent from the Duchess of Cornwall. Picture: Matthew Usher. West Norfolk Royal watcher Mary Relph from Shouldham, with the get well message and flowers sent from the Duchess of Cornwall. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“It was a complete surprise, I had no idea whatsoever,” she said. “She wasn’t up there at all but I’ve got an idea who told her.”

Mother of three Mrs Relph, who has followed the Royal Family around the country since the 1980s, believes a fellow Royal watcher wrote to the Duchess, informing her of her illness.

In April 2011, Mrs Relph was distraught after an illness meant she could not join the crowds outside Westminster Abbey for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

A few days later, a box arrived containing a piece of the Royal couple’s wedding cake and a note from the Duchess of Cornwall, who said “a little bird” had told her Mrs Relph had missed the big day.

Mrs Relph usually exchanges a few words with the Duchess at Sandringham Flower Show, where she is always among the first arrivals to guarantee a good vantage point.

“She’s wonderful, we were the first people to make her feel at home in Norfolk,” she said. “She always says: ‘Hello Mary, how are you, always.”

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