London – It takes agility to get past the thousands of commemorative pictures and teacups piled up in the London home of Margaret Tyler, one of the UK’s biggest collectors of royal memorabilia.
Days ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee marking 70 years on the throne on Thursday, the 78-year-old pensioner wearing a Union Jack jacket shows off her collection, which fills the ground floor of her house in the northwestern suburb Wembley.
“I think it’s wonderful that she’s done 70 years on the throne. The one thing that does upset me is the fact that prince Philip isn’t here,” says Tyler, casting her eye over the shelves dedicated to the queen’s husband, who died last year aged 99.
The house’s exterior sets the tone: a front door guarded by two queen-inspired garden gnomes, a replica of a bearskin hat-wearing royal guard and a pennant in the red white and blue of the Union Jack.
Inside, Tyler has collected more than 12,000 royalty-themed objects over the last 40 years, from teacups bearing the image of all the members of the royal family, to posters, framed pictures, books, statues, even slippers and ashtrays.
“If I like it, I buy it,” she says. So much that her children have barred her from going on the internet in the hope of slowing her spending.
“I don’t know whether to go to libraries” for the internet, she jokes. “They wouldn’t know.”
– ‘Diana room’ –
When she started collecting, Tyler gave over one room in the house to her hobby and forbade her four children from entering.
“They weren’t that interested, to be truthful,” she admits.
The collection grew inexorably, and as her children become adults and left home, she used their bedrooms to store more objects.
She even had walls knocked down and an extension built to create a “Diana Room” entirely dedicated to Prince Charles’s first wife, Tyler’s favourite princess.
She has had a portrait of “Lady Di” painted on the ceiling by a US artist.
“It was very hard work because you’ve got your arm up like that all the time. So you have to keep resting it,” she said.
Despite the amount of time spent collecting royal souvenirs, Tyler also does not miss a chance to meet the royal family.
That was why, aged 19, she left rural Herefordshire in the west of England to move to London and be closer to Buckingham Palace.
She has since met the queen four times.
“I gave her a big cake shaped like a crown one time,” she says with unabashed pride.
– ‘Happy, happy time’ –
Tyler’s royal passion is relentless.
She hopes that the jubilee will be a success for the queen, who at 96 remains very popular, despite health concerns, family scandals and the death of her husband.
“My wishes for the queen would be a happy, happy time together with her family… I hope she has a sort of restful time because she’s worked so hard,” says Tyler.
Despite her sadness that the queen’s grandson Harry and his wife Meghan left official royal duties to live in California, Tyler rejoices that they will travel to London for this week’s celebrations.
“It’s amazing they’re coming over for the jubilee. You know, they didn’t want to be left out this time, did they?” she says.
Like many Britons, Tyler is eagerly waiting for the jubilee celebrations.
But she will follow the festivities at home on television with friends rather than travelling into London, as she has to look after a loved one who has mobility issues.
“On TV, I can watch it again on replay in the evening when everyone is gone,” she says with a smile.