Aristocratic get-together

The family tree includes names such as the Duchess of Cornwall and Judith Keppel - one the wife of the heir to the throne, the other the first winner of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?Other famous relatives include Alice Keppel, the British socialite and mistress of Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria.

The family tree includes names such as the Duchess of Cornwall and Judith Keppel - one the wife of the heir to the throne, the other the first winner of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Other famous relatives include Alice Keppel, the British socialite and mistress of Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria.

But what is probably not so well known is that the Keppel family has its roots firmly in Norfolk, the seat of the earls of Albemarle for nearly 200 years.

The Keppel Association was formed in 2003, but now members have got together for its inaugural meeting at Elveden Hall, near Thetford, where 35 of them sat down for a picnic.

It was the first of what will, it is hoped, be yearly reunions for a family whose descendants include courtiers, soldiers, diplomats, MPs and inventors.

The association was the brainchild of Sir Fergus Matheson and Miranda Villiers, who are direct descendants of the eighth and ninth earls respectively and live in Norfolk.

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Mrs Villiers, who is secretary of the association and lives at Letheringsett, near Holt, said the aim was to bring family members together and promote knowledge of its history and achievements.

As well as the lunch, an exhibition was arranged of memorabilia of Admiral Augustus Keppel, victor in the Battle of Havana in 1762. He bought Elveden Hall in 1764 and lived there until his death in 1786.

They then went to Quidenham, near Attleborough, which was the seat of the earls for nearly two centuries and where the church has many gravestones, plaques and memorial windows commem-orating the Keppel family.

While the Duchess of Cornwall and Judith Keppel were invited, they were not able to attend.

The 10th earl of Albemarle lives in Sussex and is president of the association, while Sir Fergus, who lives at Hedenham, near Bungay, is chairman.

Those who did make the event came from all over the country, with two people flying in from Zimbabwe.

"Everybody was very pleased to see each other and to make friends, because some of them have never met," said Mrs Villiers, 70, a first cousin to Judith Keppel and a third cousin to the Duchess of Cornwall, though they have never met.

"It's an interesting family. There was interest in Alice Keppel and the Duchess of Cornwall and people for the first time started to look up the Keppels.

"People tend to think of Alice. It's rather a pity because they did lots of other things. There were lots of admirals, generals and people who were significant in their own way.

"There were people who did a lot for the county of Norfolk, particularly the seventh earl."

The story of the Keppels goes back to soldier, diplomat and courtier Arnold Joost van Keppel, who came to England from Holland in 1688 with William of Orange.

As the first earl of Albemarle he later retired to Holland, where he died, but his son stayed in England and continued the Keppel name.

Mrs Villiers said she would be delighted to hear from any other descendants of the first earl.

"We hope to keep everybody together with reunions and possible outings. It's the interest in Alice Keppel and her daughter that started it. Then Camilla came along and that put the cap on it."

For more information, call Mrs Villiers on 01263 713855.