There are royal fans, superfans and then there’s Margaret Tyler.
Ms. Tyler’s house in north London is nothing short of a shrine to the Queen and the Royal Family.
Almost every inch of the four rooms on the main floor is covered in mugs, plates, books, magazines, life-sized cut-outs, photographs and odd trinkets including slippers and masks. There are unopened bottles of royal barbecue sauce and gin – “I’m a teetotaller.” There’s even a framed display of every member of the Royal Family’s name written in Scrabble tiles.
Outside, the front wall of the house is lined with 10 plaques for the Queen, the Queen Mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, Princes William and Harry and other Royal Family members. There’s also a statue of a Coldstream Guard standing in front of a guard hut and over the door there’s a sign, “Heritage House.”
Ms. Tyler, 78, has become such a local fixture she receives letters addressed simply, “Royal House, Wembley.”
And so if there’s one of the Queen’s subjects who has been touched profoundly by her death, it’s Ms. Tyler.
“I’m just annoyed that I didn’t have more time,” she said Monday, dressed in a jacket splattered with Union Jacks and wearing a badge with a photograph of the Queen. She’s been glued to the television since Thursday when Queen Elizabeth died and she still can’t fathom the loss. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet to be truthful. I so didn’t want it to happen,” she said. “It’s been very sad.”
Ms. Tyler has thought about going to stand in line for the Queen’s lying-in-state this week, but she doubts she’ll be up to it. Her partner, David Jones, is 82 and too frail to line up for hours. “I’ll watch it on television,” she said with a shrug.
She is planning to rearrange her front room and turn it into more of an exhibit devoted only to the Queen. That’s no small feat given the amount of material lining her two dining room tables and two specially built coffee tables that are buried in photographs, small statues and plates. One room is already dedicated to the Queen’s many Jubilee celebrations and another has been stuffed with souvenirs of Diana.
She’s quick to mention that she met the Queen four times and even gave her a cake during one brief encounter. On another occasion, when the Queen visited her neighbourhood to open a local community centre, Ms. Tyler waited in line for five hours to say hello. Then she ran home to tell her daughter. “I was so out of breath, my daughter thought I was having a heart attack,” she said.
In this day of social media, selfies and cellphones, Ms. Tyler is a throwback.
She has no computer, no voicemail and no mobile phone. She’s an avid newspaper reader – print only – and she has never watched The Crown. But she wouldn’t like it anyway because “it’s not all true and I don’t like that idea.”
If you want to reach Ms. Tyler, you have to write her a letter or call her landline and wait through countless rings until she decides to answer. Or you can just show up at her door.
People routinely stop by and she rarely turns anyone away. Sometimes visitors drop off boxes of royal mementos they’d planned to throw out or they ask whether her house is some kind of a museum. Children regularly come over and this week a German television crew dropped off a Queen Barbie doll.
“I just love it,” she said gushing.
She has been collecting royal souvenirs for more than 40 years. “She’s been doing it ever since I was two years old,” said her son, Mark Tyler. “I’m 47.”
It all started when she was at a jumble sale – similar to a yard sale in Canada – and she spotted a small glass dish engraved with a crown and “Elizabeth R.” It cost two-and-a-half pence. “It was the first thing I saw when I got there. I loved it,” she recalled. She kept on buying anything tied to the Royal Family out of sheer enjoyment.
She has no idea whether her items have monetary value and she doesn’t care. She also had no time for the Guinness Book of World Records people who wanted her to take a photograph of every mug. “How could I do that,” she said incredulously. “If they want to come and do that, I’m happy to help.”
Mr. Tyler said that some of his friends used to tease him about the collection when he was a kid, but his mother kept everything in one room at first. She expanded it to the entire ground floor after Mr. Tyler and his three siblings grew up and left home. She has now gone further and filled the garage with items related to Queen Victoria, but she said that still needs sorting out.
She met King Charles once but probably won’t go out of her way to see him again. She’s still upset with the way he treated Diana, whom Ms. Tyler also met once. “Some of the things he did to Diana were very nasty,” she said.
Even though she’s mourning the death of her beloved sovereign and struggling to comprehend the loss to the country, she won’t stop collecting. She recently bought a new plate and she makes regular trips to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace to scout out more purchases. “I just need a bigger house,” she said with a smile. “Or the house next door.”