Posh pubs and pony clubs: Who’s who in the royal ‘Turnip Toff’ set
After rumours of a rift between the dynasties, we look at the main players in the Cambridges' circle
One thing is certain, rumours of a rift between the Duchess of Cambridge and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley will have displeased the Norfolk dinner party circuit – there is nothing that the so-called “Turnip Toffs” dread more than being expected to take sides between two local dynasties.
Indeed, 80,000 of the county’s 1.3 million acres belong to estates such as Houghton and Holkham, owned by families who have been loyal to the crown for generations. Unsurprisingly, it is not easy to break into the Norfolk massive. Most have been friends since they were old enough to join the West Norfolk Foxhounds; bonding at reeling parties and gap-year travels. Many of the Cambridges’ generation returned from “town” to give their own children a similarly idyllic childhood – and enjoy a ready-made social life.
So no wonder Prince William and the Marquess of Cholmondeley are doing everything they can to dispel reports of a “terrible falling out” between their wives.
But who’s who in the land of posh pubs and pony clubs?
The stately homers
The Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley
With neighbouring estates, the Cambridges and the Cholmondeleys were destined to become friends (or enemies). Society beauty Rose was a political researcher for both Kate Hoey and Michael Gove before she married Lord Cholmondeley, Lord Great Chamberlain of England – a descendant of Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister – who is 23 years her senior.
Their pile, Houghton Hall, dwarfs the Cambridges’ Anmer Hall, and Cholmondeley’s £112m fortune eclipses the £6.5m William inherited after the death of his mother, but they have plenty in common. Like Kate, Lady Cholmondeley has three children and is great pals with her parents and her sister, Marina. She has an eye for fashion and still models for Mulberry. Lord Cholmondeley is less similar to William – he is a filmmaker, educated at the Sorbonne – but they looked pally at a gala at Houghton in 2016, and Kate has taken the children to the Houghton Horse Trials, which is run on their estate.
Tom and Polly Coke, Earl and Countess of Leicester
Since 1612, Holkham Hall, a vast Palladian pile on the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea, has been home to the Leicester earls; it’s currently occupied by the eighth earl, Tom Coke (pronounced “Cook”), his wife Polly and their children, Hermione, Juno, Edward and Elizabeth.
More than 50,000 visitors traipse through their home each year to admire paintings by Rubens and Poussin, but the Cokes aren’t precious. Lady Leicester keeps her parrot, Basil, in the family wing, and Lord Leicester urges guests not to treat the house as a museum.
William and Rosie van Cutsem
Another of Prince William’s closest friends, William van Cutsem, lives near Swaffham with his wife Rosie (née Ruck Keene), and works for a property development company based in Bury St Edmunds.
William’s late father, Hugh, a banker and horse breeder, was a great friend of Prince Charles and rented Anmer Hall for a decade before the Cambridges moved in. Kate is a good friend of Rosie, and a supporter of her clothing company, Troy London, which sells parkas, coats and jackets also worn by Poppy Delevingne and Jacquetta Wheeler.
Alfred and Charlotte Bagge
The Bagge family of Stradsett Hall, an Elizabethan manor near Downham Market, are also dyed-in-the-wool Turnip Toffs and all the locals turn up to their parties: in 2012, Sir (John)Jeremy, the seventh baronet, threw a Wild West party for their three children, Alfred, Alexandra and Bertie. Now Alfred has taken over the running of the estate with his wife, Charlotte, and “baglets” Tabitha, Frederick and Pip.
William and Violet Vestey
The Vesteys, although not an old Norfolk family, are old family friends of the royal family, and William has strong links to the county now, having married Violet (née Henderson), a Norfolk lass who used to be an editor at Vogue. They were wed at North Elmham, and still return regularly to catch up with Violet’s mother, Juliet.
Rupert and Lady Natasha Finch
Rupert grew up in a farmhouse in North Creake, outside Fakenham, and returns regularly to visit his parents with his wife, Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs, daughter of the Marquess of Reading. Natasha is the co-founder of ethical fashion brand Beulah, a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Nick and Laura Pettman
Laura, née Fellowes, is Prince William’s cousin; her parents are Princess Diana’s sister, Lady Jane, and Lord Fellowes, whose father was the queen’s land agent. She is also a novelist, writing under the name of Mave Fellowes. Her husband, Nick, is an equity analyst.
Princess Diana’s god-daughter, Sussy, is the daughter of Diana’s Norfolk childhood friend, Isabel Dawnay, and her grandfather was the queen mother’s racehorse trainer, Peter Cazalet. She grew up between London and Norfolk, and now runs her own interior design business in London, returning regularly to Norfolk.
Tom and Davina Barber
Davina (née Duckworth-Chad) was among the guests on the yacht that Prince William chartered around the Aegean in 1999. She has close royal and Norfolk connections: her mother was Princess Diana’s cousin; her father, a Norfolk landowner, was a friend of Prince Charles; and her brother was an equerry.
She studied at Bristol and lived in London for 10 years, but when she and husband Tom, who founded the Original Travel company, had their twins, India and Sienna, they decided to move back to the county where he also spent his childhood holidays. They’ve now set up home in South Acre, near Swaffham, where Davina runs Source, a furniture finding agency.
Robbie and Iona Buxton
The Buxtons aren’t an old family by Norfolk standards: Robbie’s father bought Kimberley, their Queen Anne pad near Wymondham, in 1958. They are, however, the family everyone in Norfolk wants to know as each year they host, at Kimberley Hall, a “big dirty rave” for 1,000 of their friends. Iona writes books on architecture while Robbie is an aviator.
Monica Vinader and Nick Zoll
Monica Vinader, one of Kate’s favourite jewellery designers, has been living in Norfolk for 19 years; she has recently restored a 12th century house just inland from Thornham, with her husband, Nick, who works in travel. Vinader epitomises the converted Turnip Toff: she runs her business from the Holkham estate, shops for clothes and food in Burnham Market, and dines out at the The Ship in Brancaster or the Michelin-star Morston Hall near Holt.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)