Royal wedding brings stardom to super-collector
Margaret Tyler has long held a special place among fans of the British monarchy for her huge collection of memorabilia, but the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton has made her a global star.
Television crews from Australia to the United States have traipsed through her modest London home in recent months, keen to get a look at what she says may be the largest collection of royal family souvenirs ever put together.
"Some people say it's the biggest collection in the world; some people say it's the biggest in England. I don't know, but it's big, isn't it?" the 67-year-old grandmother told AFP, surveying her life's work.
Over the last 30 years, Tyler has gathered about 10,000 objects relating to the Windsors, from glasses, mugs and plates bearing images of the royal family, to photographs, posters, newspapers, books, figurines and paintings.
They fill up every inch of the ground floor, covering the walls, shelves and furniture, and are beginning to creep up the stairwell of her house in Wembley.
Even Tyler herself is part of the collection, wearing a red jacket with badges of William and his bride-to-be and a sparkling Union Jack belt.
"They all have their own place," she said of her treasures, which are insured for £40,000 (45,600 euros, $64,000). She insists the collection is not about the money. "It's a labour of love with the royal family."
There is not a huge amount of space left for Tyler herself, who, since her retirement, spends the majority of her time at home among her trophies -- except when she heads out in search of new pieces to add to her haul.
She admits her collection has caused some raised eyebrows.
"Some people say I'm obsessed, but I do have another life; I've got a family, four children and four grandchildren," she said.
Tyler added: "I think if the royal family came here, they'd feel quite at home."
Her passion goes back as far as she can remember. "When I was 19, I came to London because I wanted to be nearer the royal family," she said.
"They are marvellous. Britain would be a much sadder place without them."
Her passion even dictates her choice of holiday -- in the summer, Tyler visits the royal palaces, and has occasionally caught a glimpse of the inhabitants.
To mark Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday, she gave her a cake in the shape of a crown as the monarch met her subjects during a public engagement.
But Diana is Tyler's favourite, with an entire room devoted to the late princess.
She hoped to do the same with Diana's son William and his wife-to-be, but the local council dashed her hopes when it rejected her application to build an extension to her house.
Over the years, Tyler has become a magnet for royal fans the world over. One Australian woman kept an article on her collection for seven years before finally paying a visit. "Amazing, isn't it?" she said.
However, the marriage of William and Kate at Westminster Abbey on April 29 has thrust her into the spotlight in a way she could never have imagined.
"I do five or six interviews a week now, you can't believe it, can you?" she said, citing television broadcasts with Australian, US and Canadian channels and interviews with journalists from as far away as China.
Somewhat of an expert before all this happened, she now gets up at 4:30 am every morning to read up on the latest developments on William and Kate, and on the big day itself she will be live in the studios of a major US network.
Why does she think there is such interest?
"It's what people need -- we had a long, cold winter, a lot of depression about money, wars abroad. I think a royal wedding cheers everybody up."
© 2011 AFP