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Meghan Markle creates the latest link between the US and Norfolk

Not since the US Air Force were here during the second world war has America been paying so much attention to Norfolk.

Firstly, a US citizen recently spent Christmas at the Royals’ private Norfolk home at Sandringham, when Prince Harry’s bride-to-be Meghan Markle was invited by Her Majesty The Queen to join the family’s festive get-together – the first Royal fiancée to enjoy such an accolade.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

And although many of the Royals’ Noel traditions are German in origin, including Heiligabend Bescherung, literally ‘Christmas Eve time for exchanging gifts’, and Gewurztraminer wine on the menu, Miss Markle will have felt at home with the Christmas Day meal – traditional roast turkey, just like back home in America for Thanksgiving.

While that celebration is about the success of The Pilgrim Fathers who sailed across the Atlantic (this county had the highest percentage of passengers on The Mayflower), another Norfolk man had already been in the New World for a few years – John Rolfe of Heacham, and it can reasonably be claimed that he helped create the Special Relationship, by becoming the first man to marry a native American in a church wedding.

The Special Relationship


Over the following years many more Norfolk people went across The Pond to create new lives for themselves, not least the families of future US president Abe Lincoln and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Thomas Paine, from Thetford, was instrumental in creating US history – in fact, it could be argued that he helped secure victory for the Americans in the War of Independence with Britain.

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And then, of course, there was The Friendly Invasion, when tens of thousands of American Air Force servicemen were based here in the second world war to help defeat Nazism. They brought with them Coca Cola, bubble gum, peanut butter and many more things that we now consider part of everyday life.

The Friendly Invasion

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Netflix’s drama The Crown is also creating more interest in the British Royal family and their life at Sandringham, with travel operators organising tours for US visitors to west Norfolk.

It seems North America just can’t get enough of Norfolk – and with HBO set to announce a major new series based on the wartime experiences of The Mighty Eighth Air Force here in Norfolk, the spotlight might just get a little more intense in 2018.

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