With its sprawling estates, remote location and impeccably well-bred gentry — known as the Turnip Toffs — it’s no surprise that Norfolk is the centre of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s world.
By enrolling two-year-old Prince George at a rural nursery school in the village of East Walton, William and Kate have made a declaration of intent. They are no longer Londoners but (ooh, arrr!) Norfolk folk.
And since Princess Charlotte’s christening last summer at Sandringham, they have been spending ever more time in the county with a close circle of Norfolk friends.
With its sprawling estates, remote location and impeccably well-bred gentry known as the Turnip Toffs it’s no surprise Norfolk is the centre of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s world
No fewer than three of Charlotte’s godparents have firm family links to the county.
As you’d expect, the Cambridges’ new court are all hugely posh — and more than a little eccentric.
These young blue bloods — most of whom have houses as grand as the Cambridges’ Anmer Hall — are discreet, trusted and, importantly for family-minded Kate, have small children of their own to play with George and Charlotte.
So just who is who in the inner circle of Turnip Toffs?
KATE’S RIGHT HAND WOMAN
Few women have won Kate’s trust as thoroughly as Norfolk girl Sophie Carter.
The winsome blonde, who is also godmother to Princess Charlotte, was part of the close-knit circle who celebrated the Duchess’s 34th birthday at Anmer Hall earlier this month.
She even made up part of the exclusive royal party who later attended St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, for a service attended by the Queen that commemorated the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.
Country girl: Kate’s close Norfolk friend Sophie Carter. The pair are pictured, right, at Wimbledon in 2008
Discreet Sophie, who has been a friend to Kate for many years, is often to be found quietly by the Duchess’s side at various parties and events.
While in their younger days the girls used to party the nights away, they now mainly watch tennis (they play together and hang out at Wimbledon), though they were pictured cheering exuberantly at Cirque du Soleil for Kate’s 31st birthday.
The daughter of Norfolk construction tycoon Robert Carter, Sophie is also, helpfully, an expert in early years’ learning, having been a nursery and prep school teacher.
The Durham University graduate has developed a phonics educational app, ‘Hip Hop Hen’, with which Prince George is no doubt already familiar.
WILLS’ TRUSTED CHILDHOOD CHUM
One man can be said to have inspired the royal decampment to North Norfolk — and that’s Prince George’s godfather, 37-year-old William van Cutsem.
His landowner parents actually rented Anmer Hall in the Nineties, and Princes William and Harry were regular guests at the property.
It’s fair to say, then, that the Prince has many happy childhood memories of the place that’s now his own home.
Indeed, van Cutsem’s mother, Emilie, was an important maternal figure to him after the death of his own mother, Princess Diana.
Today, the van Cutsems live less than half an hour from Anmer, on a 4,000-acre estate near Swaffham.
The late Hugh van Cutsem, Prince Charles’s friend from Cambridge who died in 2013, built an enormous brick and flint neo-Georgian house with its own chapel there in the Nineties.
One man can be said to have inspired the royal decampment to North Norfolk — and that’s Prince George’s godfather, 37-year-old William van Cutsem (pictured with wife Rosie)
Fortunately for the Cambridges, the much-trusted William van Cutsem has also chosen to move back to Norfolk from London with his blonde wife, Rosie.
He’s tall, handsome, debonair — and discreet, something that William relies on.
According to a friend, van Cutsem ‘knows every inch and cranny of Norfolk — every pub, every discreet publican, every country house, the yachts, horses, home help.’
Chartered surveyor William, who works for a property development company based in Bury St Edmunds, is considered to be the most handsome and best shot of the four van Cutsem brothers.
So he was quite a catch, then… Indeed, the two Williams have a history of, shall we say, trading girlfriends.
Van Cutsem’s wife, the former Rosie Ruck Keene, consoled the Prince when he briefly split from Kate in 2007.
And he also dated van Cutsem’s old flame, Olivia Hunt, while they were at university together.
As well as blonde good looks, former City headhunter Rosie has an entrepreneurial streak.
Recent business dabblings include starting a private riding club, as well as launching a fashion brand, Troy London, with her sister.
Described as ‘an outwear brand’, it sells things such as cashmere capes with a fox fur trim for £950.
Perfect for watching your husband shoot in the chilly Norfolk countryside, one would imagine.
KATE’S EX AND HIS FASHIONISTA WIFE
Weekend visitors to Norfolk include Kate’s ex-boyfriend from St Andrews, cricket-playing lawyer and local boy Rupert Finch.
He is married to Prince William’s old friend, Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, daughter of the Marquess of Reading and the co-founder of ethical fashion label Beulah — which happens to be one of Kate’s favourites.
Rupert Finch and Natasha Rufus Isaacs pictured at the Cartier Queen’s Cup at Windsor in 2015
While in Norfolk, the couple stay with Rupert’s horsey parents, who live in an idyllic brick-and-flint farmhouse in North Creake, outside Fakenham, surrounded by land that belongs to William’s uncle, Earl Spencer.
The Finches also have a baby daughter, Georgia, who is a perfect playmate for Princess Charlotte.
FROM COCKTAILS IN BOUJIS TO PEEKABOO WITH PRINCESS CHARLOTTE
They once drank cocktails in London club Boujis with Kate and William, but today Charlie Savory and his wife, Lucy, are more likely to be playing peekaboo with Princess Charlotte.
Norfolk lad Savory, an accountant, was brought up at Thorpland Hall, a Tudor house outside Great Snoring, North Norfolk.
Today, he works for a firm in Norwich. He and Lucy, a major-general’s daughter, have a young son and daughter, ideal playmates for George and Charlotte.
They once drank cocktails in London club Boujis with Kate and William, but today Charlie Savory and his wife, Lucy, are more likely to be playing peekaboo with Princess Charlotte
Another nearby chum is Rory Penn, a childhood friend of William’s.
Married to Francesca, the couple have two young daughters and live outside Burnham Market, the Sloaney village in Norfolk where Kate likes to go shopping.
Penn — whose grandmother is the Queen’s cousin — has also set up a property company with Thomas van Straubenzee, another of Charlotte’s godfathers.
Last year, Penn helped to sell a £39 million penthouse at the Bulgari hotel in London’s Knightsbridge, so he’s clearly doing all right for himself.
The third Norfolk godparent to Charlotte is William’s literary first cousin Laura Fellowes (pictured)
THE COUSIN WHO LOVES TO TEASE
The third Norfolk godparent to Charlotte is William’s literary first cousin Laura Fellowes.
Her parents are Lady Jane — Princess Diana’s elder sister — and Lord (Robert) Fellowes, the Queen’s Private Secretary, who is said to be ‘the most charming dinner guest in the county’.
Fellowes comes from Norfolk stock himself. Indeed, his father was the Queen’s land agent at Sandringham.
‘Shy and delightful’, Laura was a bridesmaid at Fergie’s 1986 wedding, and shared a flat at Edinburgh University with William’s old crush, Isabella Calthorpe, who is now married to Sam Branson, son of Virgin tycoon Sir Richard.
Very close to her royal first cousins, William and Harry, Laura is ‘allowed to tease them both mercilessly’ according to a friend.
While she’s notably discreet and terribly loyal, Laura is also known for her vivacious character and love of riding and dogs.
She married equity analyst Nick Pettman in 2009 in Snettisham, west Norfolk, where her parents live in a pretty, old rectory.
William and Kate were both guests at that wedding — ‘there is no greater indication of inner-inner circle status than getting both of them at your wedding,’ says one associate.
Other than becoming a godparent, of course.
Today, Laura writes fiction under the name Mave Fellowes — her nickname is Mavis — and has two young sons to play with George.
DIVINE DAVINA, THE GLAMOROUS BLONDE
Also on hand to chat about nursery schools and phonics with Kate is the glamorous blonde Davina Barber, nee Duckworth-Chad.
The Duckworth-Chads are perennial Turnip Toffs, as well as being second cousins of William’s, and live in splendour at red-brick Pynkney Hall near King’s Lynn.
Davina’s mother, Elizabeth, was first cousin to Diana, who was her bridesmaid.
Davina Duckworth-Chad and her husband Tom Barber pictured at a wedding in 2011
Elizabeth is still on good terms with Prince Charles and the whole family attended William and Kate’s 2011 nuptials.
Beauty Davina, with whom William has a ‘strong, jocular friendship’, lives in Norfolk with her Old Etonian husband, Tom Barber (above with Davina), who runs a luxury travel agency.
They have twin daughters.
THE DASHING DINNER PARTY HOST
While most of the Cambridges’ inner-circle are married with young families, Old Etonian Archie Soames is an exception.
Great-grandson of Winston Churchill, he is a close confidant of William’s.
The 27-year-old financier holds lively dinner parties at his Norfolk family home, West Barsham Hall, near Fakenham racecourse. William and Kate are regular guests.
Though still single, Soames did notably have a liaison with the much older American model Caprice when he was only 17, after meeting her at the London nightclub Boujis.
THE PRINCE’S FOOTY-MAD MATE
Football-mad Tom Howard is the son of Tory grandee and life peer Lord (Greville) Howard.
The Howard family have played very shouty football with William and Harry for years, including at the annual Christmas Eve match which is held at the family’s estate, Castle Rising.
And if everyone in the Cambridges’ Norfolk circle has an estate, the Howards outdo them all with Castle Rising, which is right next to Sandringham.
Not only does it have a Victorian Hall that the family live in, it also has an ancient keep which was the palace-in-exile of Queen Isabella, the widow and alleged murderess of Edward II.
ETON PAL HITCHED TO A PRINCESS
Just 60 or so miles from Anmer — which is nothing for East Anglia folk, who consider an hour in the car nipping round the corner — live Lord and Lady Tollemache in the ancient, vast and moated Helmingham Hall, where the Queen is a regular overnight guest.
Their two sons are both true Turnip Toffs: banker Edward, Prince Charles’s godson, and his wife, Sophie, have two young sons; and fund manager James, who was at Eton with William, is married to Princess Florrie von Preussen (of Prussia), who used to style for Oka, the upmarket interiors label owned by Samantha Cameron’s mother.
It was at James’s 21st that William did a lap of the moat, clad only in his boxer shorts, with his good friend Guy Pelly.
Those kind of larks are unlikely to happen again until Prince George is a teenager — or at least until Harry comes to stay.
‘BADGER’ WHO WAS WILLS’ BEST MAN
Alongside Sophie Carter at church for the Gallipoli commemorations was James Meade, fellow godparent to Charlotte and an Old Etonian chum of William’s.
Nicknamed ‘Badger’ (he picked up the moniker at university but the reason is lost in the mists of time), he is such a close friend to the Duke that he made the joint best man’s speech at the royal wedding.
He’s close to Kate, too, taking her to the Badminton Horse Trials during her split from William in 2007.
Badger’s wife is Lady Laura Marsham, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Romney, and one of the key movers and shakers of the Turnip Toffs set.
The Romneys live at Gayton Hall, a Georgian house outside King’s Lynn which has a 20-acre water garden.
THE ELEGANT ARISTOS
The Earl and Countess of Leicester are Tom and Polly Coke and are a few years older than William and Kate
There are the two rival grandees of North Norfolk: the Leicesters of Holkham and the Cholmondeleys of Houghton. Both make up part of William’s Norfolk shooting circle.
The Earl and Countess of Leicester are Tom and Polly Coke (pronounced Cook) and are a few years older than William and Kate.
While Polly is a former milliner, giving her easy chit-chat with fashion-conscious Kate, former Army boy Tom is a royal equerry.
Norfolk’s glamour pair are the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley — filmmaker David, 55, and his wife, socialite and model Rose (pictured at the Serpentine Gallery last summer)
They have four children, and home, Holkham, is a Palladian masterpiece with a 25,000-acre estate and a four-mile-long beach where Prince Charles and Princess Anne used to play.
Norfolk’s glamour pair are the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley — filmmaker David, 55, and his wife, socialite and model Rose (above), who is some 24 years his junior.
They live at Houghton Hall, once home to Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.