Royal Norfolk exhibition to launch at record office this week

From the historic estate bought by her great-great-grandparents for their wayward son to the thank-you letter she wrote having received a wedding present, this county is proud of its links to the Queen and her family.

Now, as the country prepares to mark her 60th year on the throne, the record office she opened in 2004 is set to celebrate the area's Royal Norfolk connections.

But while many of the exhibits are likely to be new to those visiting over the next few weeks, they may have a slightly more familiar feel to the monarch – since many belong to her.

The Norfolk Record Office's archives contain an endless variety of documents from company accounts to the casual correspondence of a local family.

But among the many images, papers and letters stored within its walls are a number of deposits from the royal family.

Susan Maddock, county archivist, said: 'She [the Queen] opened the archive centre in 2004. When she visited, we showed her some of her own documents and she was very interested to see those.

'It was only a few months later she agreed the royal archive could transfer through another volume of documents relating to Sandringham – I'm not sure if the two things are related or not.'

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Visitors to the Royal Norfolk exhibition, which opens this Friday, will be able to see 13th-century deeds, part of a 12th-century manuscript book, and a land survey dating back to 1627, all belonging to the Queen and her family.

The displays will focus on the history of the Sandringham Estate, whose history began long before the arrival of the Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, and his new wife Princess Alexandra in 1863.

Images and orders of service from the Church of St Mary Magdalen reveal the much-anticipated annual trips during their Christmas visit are a well-established ritual for the royal family.

And records of baptisms carried out at the Sandringham Estate church show the important role it has played over the generations – and the changing attitude towards their children's privacy.

Miss Maddock said the archives offered yet more proof of the royal family becoming more open in recent years.

She said: 'They took baptism very serious in 1897 and 1905. They didn't name the children, often simply referring to the prince or princess.'

But there is no mistaking the record marking the christening of Princess Eugenie, daughter of the Duke of York, where she is named in full.

'By 1990 they had lost all their inhibitions about naming,' said Miss Maddock.

Other exhibits reveal the more personal links between the royal family and Norfolk.

A photograph, dated 1870, shows Princess Alexandra posing with one of her children, thought to be Princess Victoria, who was born two years before.

Far from an official image, it shows her carrying the child on her back and smiling at the camera.

Miss Maddock said it was likely to have been taken by another Norfolk family during a regular visit to their home.

'It's just like any other snapshot of a mother and baby,' she said.

'But it's the royal family.

'At this point in the 19th-century, not only was photography still rather new but also, even for a family album, taking a shot like that is quite unusual.'

The Royal Norfolk exhibition begins on Friday and runs until June 23 in the Norfolk Record Office's Long Gallery at The Archive Centre at County Hall.

Admission is free and opening hours are 9am to 5pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 9.30am to 5pm on Tuesdays, and 9am to noon on Saturdays. It will be closed over the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday.