Boy of four signs on as the Queen's pen friend

30th May 2007
Daily Mail

When Tom Stancombe released a balloon at a school fete he hoped it might lead to a friendship with another child in a foreign land.

As it turned out, the four-year-old's balloon, which carried his name and address, ended up travelling less than 20 miles.

Correspondent: Tom Stancombe received three royal letters

But Tom's luck was in for it was found in the grounds of Windsor Castle, sparking an exchange of letters with the Queen.

The monarch asked her personal assistant, Angela Kelly, to write to him, saying: "She [the Queen] was delighted to find that your balloon had travelled all the way to the gardens at Windsor Castle."

The letter was soon pride of place on Tom's bedroom wall.

The pupil of Charles Kingsley's Primary School, in Hook, Hampshire, wrote back to tell her that his great, great grandfather, the artist Petrus Johannes Arundzen, had been commissioned to copy Dutch masters on display at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

Miss Kelly, who is also the Queen's senior dresser, promptly replied to say she would contact the Royal Collection to find out what had happened to the works.

Two weeks later she wrote back: "I am absolutely delighted to be able to tell you that the Royal Collection do indeed have three etchings by Petrus Johannes Arundzen.

"They form part of the print collection in the Print Library and are printed on vellum rather than paper, which means they are very special deluxe prints."

Windsor Castle: The balloon landed in the grounds of the royal residence

Miss Kelly then had a favour of her own to ask: "Would you be able to ask your Mummy and Daddy for me if they know anything more about your great, great grandfather. Royal Collection would love to know more about him."

Tom - with help from parents Jane, who works for Aerstream Technology, and Mark, who works for Cisco Systems - wrote back to help fill in the gaps.

Mr Stancombe, 49, said: "I've tried to tell Tom I'll never get a letter from the Queen - and there he is getting one at only four."

Asked if he thinks they will be swapping any more letters with the Queen, Mr Stancombe said: "I don't expect we'll get another one, but I think it's incredible they bothered replying at all."

He said his ancestor had been told to take his copied works back to Holland but some had stayed in the UK.