A former Lord-Lieutenant of Suffolk has paid a touching tribute to the late Queen, saying she had a “great affection” for the county.

Lord Tollemache spoke of the Queen’s many official visits to the county - and also the times she and the Duke of Edinburgh could “kick off their shoes and relax” during informal, private stays at Helmingham Hall.

The Queen and Prince Philip were friends of Lord and Lady Tollemache for decades, and came to stay at Helmingham for 27 consecutive years.

Lord Tollemache’s tribute came at the County Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving for the life of Queen Elizabeth II, held at St. Edmundsbury Cathedral on Saturday.

He said Newmarket always held a very special place in her heart. “Her love of racing, her encyclopaedic knowledge of horses and their breeding, her frequent conversations with trainers and the racing community all meant a great deal to her and the people of Newmarket.”

Lord Tollemache recalled the Queen and Duke’s visit to Ipswich, Stowmarket and Bury St. Edmunds in July 2002, during the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

She was given a “huge welcome” at Ipswich Waterfront, and bridges on the A14 were “full of cheering crowds” as the Queen’s convoy passed through.

“She was astonished and delighted that so many people made the effort to welcome and congratulate her.” He described the whole of the day as “a joyous occasion.”

He also spoke of the Queen’s visit to Bury in 2009 for the Maundy ceremony in the cathedral, and a garden party at Sandringham, which many people from Suffolk attended.

Lord Tollemache also gave an insight into the Queen and Duke’s private stays at Helmingham.

He said: “This was, of course, a great honour and it was there where they could kick off their shoes and relax in front of the fire, particularly in bad times such as the one she described...as her ‘annus horribilis’ following, among other things, the fire at Windsor Castle earlier that very week.“

Lord Tollemache told of an amusing moment during one of the Queen’s visits. A chimney was on fire at Helmingham Hall, and was being dealt with by a team of firemen.

The Queen was in the Great Hall at the stately home when “to everyone’s astonishment,” two firemen, covered in soot, suddenly emerged from the fireplace.

Lord Tollemache said: “To this day I do not know who was the more surprised - Her Majesty, suddenly being confronted by two firemen emerging from the chimney, or indeed the two firemen emerging to be confronted by their Sovereign.”

The Queen, he said, had a “great sense of humour” and a “wonderful laugh.” Lord Tollemache said: “There are many ways to describe Her Majesty - wise, constant, a comfort to us all - her steadfast service was supreme and we sensed that she was always there for all of us, in good times and in bad.”