With many healing thoughts - Camilla sends flowers and card to Norfolk Royal watcher who missed Christmas Day at Sandringham
- Credit: Matthew Usher
As thousands gathered to greet the Queen on Christmas Day, a familiar face was missing from the crowd at Sandringham.
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.
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'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.
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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.'