Sandringham: murder mystery keeps foreign readers gripped

Jan 4, 2012

Agatha Christie meets the Queen as world's press reports from the Norfolk estate

MORE preoccupied these days with the comings and goings at Downton Abbey than the royal estates, the British press has been remarkably restrained in its coverage of the finding of a woman’s body on the edge of the Queen’s estate at Sandringham on New Year’s Day.

For the foreign media, however, it has been tantalising stuff, evoking a vision of Hercule Poirot pulling up outside the neo-Jacobean pile in his chauffeur-driven Messarro Gratz to investigate the mysterious crime perpetrated in the royal grounds. What could be tastier?

The San Francisco Chronicle reported fancifully: “The royal family owns vast tracts of land throughout Britain, and it is not unprecedented for serious crimes to be committed on property under their control. Now Sandringham, a private residence for British monarchs since 1862, has been touched as well.”

Down the road at the Los Angeles Times they wrote in a suitably Chandleresque tone: “While the royal family was gathered at Sandringham Estate for reportedly its largest Christmas celebration in years - Catherine's first as a royal - three miles away [two actually] lay the body of a woman police believe was murdered.”

Time magazine was rather more prosaic, saying the Queen got a nasty shock when Norfolk police reported the discovery - though not so nasty that she wasn’t “spotted riding a chestnut horse around the 20,000-acre estate on Monday morning, just hours after the body was discovered”.

Foreign journalists have invoked a variety of fictional detectives. The Chronicle felt it was a “murder mystery with elements of an Agatha Christie whodunit” while CBS went a little further back in history: “It's a case that Sherlock Holmes would have loved to unravel”.

Last word goes to the no-nonsense South Africans. The IoL site reports: “The royal family is not implicated in the crime in any way.”

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