The untold story of Her Majesty and Norwich City

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had a strong connection to Norfolk. The former Monarch meets guests at Sandringham in 2002

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had a strong connection to Norfolk, including it would seem Norwich City. The former Monarch is pictured meeting guests at a Sandringham garden party in 2002 - Credit: Archant

The untold story of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s affection for Norwich City can now be revealed, by a former Canaries commercial chief. 

The longest-reigning monarch was buried in a private ceremony in Windsor on Monday evening, after 10 days of national mourning, following a state funeral in London and military procession to Windsor Castle. 

Ray Cossey ran Norwich City’s commercial operations between 1986-95 in a period which saw them finish third in the inaugural Premier League, and famously become the first English club to beat Bayern Munich in Germany. 

The 83-year-old, who kept his royal secret for nearly three decades, recalls a special telephone call in the aftermath of that Jerry Goss-inspired 2-1 away win in the Uefa Cup from October 1993. 

An historic night for Norwich City. Jeremy Goss celebrates with Canaries' boss Mike Walker after beating Bayern Munich

An historic night for Norwich City. Jeremy Goss celebrates with Canaries' boss Mike Walker after a stunning win against Bayern Munich in 1993 - Credit: Archant

“A few days before the second leg my secretary said to me, ‘I have a phone call for you from Buckingham Palace’,” he said. “I answered the phone to a gentleman who I happened to know from years gone by who asked could I help him acquire a couple of tickets for the match?

"He wasn't trying to scrounge and was willing to send me an open cheque to pay for the tickets and I filled in the amount of the ticket prices.

"Now he was a very high-ranking official in the royal employ and after we started to talk he explained to me how he had to meet with Her Majesty every single Tuesday morning to discuss royal matters, and the conversation always started with a 10 to 15 minute chat about Norwich City, what they were up to, how well they had done to come third in the Premier League, and it was quite obvious she had a sneaking love for the Canaries.

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"Of course she would never be able to have gone public with that, and I couldn’t have mentioned it before while she was alive. In any walk of life she was not allowed to show any prejudice but she was certainly a very keen and very avid follower of Norwich City.” 

Ray Cossey was a former Norwich City commercial manager. Pictured here with his wife, Theresa

Ray Cossey was a former Norwich City commercial manager. Pictured here with his wife, Theresa - Credit: Ray Cossey

Mr Cossey, who lives in Little Plumstead with his wife Theresa, charted the former head of state’s soft spot for the Canaries to her father, George VI, who was born and died at Sandringham, and in 1938 become the first reigning monarch to attend a football league game on a visit to Norwich. 

The King and Queen Elizabeth were received by Lord Mayor Charles Watling, father of the club’s long-serving chairman Geoffrey, before the King later visited Carrow Road.

He met players and officials from Norwich City and Millwall before the game paused, upon his departure early in the first half, of a match City went on to lose 2-0. 

“I believe Her Majesty, the Queen, went off to visit a local hospital (Colman Memorial) and the King attended the opening 15 minutes, and the historic thing was he became the first ever reigning monarch to watch a football league game,” said Mr Cossey. “The fact he was born and died in Norfolk underlines how strong the connection was to this part of the world.

"Maybe that was the embryonic stages of any support, or interest, in Norwich City.  

His Majesty King George VI visited Carrow Road in 1938.

His Majesty King George VI visited Carrow Road in 1938. - Credit: Archant

“The other connection from that visit, of course, was the Lord Mayor at the time, Charles Watling, was the father of the much-revered Geoffrey Watling, who was such an important figure in the club’s history.  

“I remember when the City Stand fire happened, and it was reopened by the Duchess of Kent (February 1987) and we put on an exhibition for her visit. Geoffrey Watling had a fantastic collection of silver.

"He had a replica of the recently re-built River End, the First Division trophy and a replica of Duncan Forbes’ boot from the first Wembley League Cup final, all in silver.

"There was even a replica of a full sized football, where the top opened on a hinge and a canary would appear singing ‘On the Ball, City’.

"So just as his father had received their majesties in 1938, I was actually in the room when he showed the Duchess this exhibition of silver.” 

The Duchess of Kent visited Carrow Road in February 1987 to formally open the City Stand

The Duchess of Kent visited Carrow Road in February 1987 to formally open the City Stand - Credit: Archant

Mr Cossey and his wife were involved in their own royal story in 2020, when a picture of them isolating from their great-grandchildren during the pandemic went viral, after the then Duchess of Cambridge used it as inspiration to set up a project capturing the spirit of the nation. 

"It went world wide,” said Mr Cossey, who now follows the Canaries from afar. "The family even had a call from an artist in America who wanted to do an oil painting of it. We never heard from her again. But that is what inspired the now Princess of Wales to have her exhibition at the time. 

“Since I retired I haven’t been back to Carrow Road more than five or six times. I am still a Norwich fan but when you get older you don’t want to go through all the hustle and bustle.

"I missed the last two Wembley appearances. If I went back now I probably wouldn’t recognise it. It is such a professionally run business.”   

Norwich City's former chairman Geoffrey Watling presents Iwan Roberts with his Barry Butler player-of-the-year award in 1999

Norwich City's former chairman Geoffrey Watling presents Iwan Roberts with his Barry Butler player-of-the-year award in 1999 - Credit: Keith Whitmore/Archant