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Thursday, September 29, 2022
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    A piece of the queen

    LONDON (AP) – There are fridge magnets, tea sets and flags. And of course mugs, T-shirts and sweatshirts with the face of Queen Elizabeth II that are inscribed with the dates of her 70-year reign: 1952-2022.

    Just days after the death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch, unofficial souvenirs have rolled out at royal-themed gift shops in London and online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.

    Cool Britannia, a shop selling United Kingdom (UK) themed memorabilia across the street from Buckingham Palace, pushed its suppliers to work overnight to get mementos ready by Saturday, just two days after the queen’s death, store manager Ismayil Ibrahim said.

    Items depicting the new monarch, King Charles III, were also on their way to Ibrahim’s shop, where tourists were buying other royal gifts like queen bobbleheads and rubber ducks wearing crowns.

    Official merchandise, however, will take longer to arrive to approved vendors, who have suspended sales of royal souvenirs out of respect for the mourning period.

    Based on strong customer demand for gifts for the queen’s recent Platinum Jubilee celebrating her seven decades on the throne, Ibrahim anticipates even greater interest in souvenirs commemorating her life and death.

    ABOVE & BELOW: A boy looks at toy figures of Queen Elizabeth II displayed for sale at a gift shop in London; and flags printed with a picture of Queen Elizabeth II are displayed for sale at a gift shop in London. PHOTOS: AP

    Toy figures of Queen Elizabeth II on display
    Photos above and below show memorabilia of Queen Elizabeth II displayed at the gift shop

    Customers purchase a T-shirt at a gift shop in London

    “People kept asking us, ‘Have you got anything yet?’” Ibrahim said.

    So he quickly stocked T-shirts and mugs saying, “Forever in our Hearts” and “Gone but not forgotten”, bearing a portrait of the queen as a young woman. Another version carried portraits of the queen both young and old with the words: “Queen Elizabeth II – The Greatest Reign 1952-2022”.

    There was a constant stream of tourists browsing at the shop on Monday, and two others nearby, though not many were buying the items commemorating her reign.

    An Italian living in Bath, England, Lorenzo Corbani bought a solar-powered bobblehead figure of the queen for his mother, who was a big fan.

    “She felt she was a great woman,” said Corbani, 35.

    Unofficial gifts have spread quickly online, too. Sellers on eBay are already hawking King Charles III souvenir mugs, badges, fridge magnets, and key rings that say “God Save The King.” Amazon vendors are flogging similarly tacky and hastily churned out royal merchandise like Union Jack flags adorned with Charles’ portrait and decals and posters commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s life. There’s even a pet bandana with the dates of her reign.

    At Majestic Gifts near Buckingham Palace, Paul Callaghan splurged on a tin of Platinum Jubilee English breakfast tea bearing the queen’s picture for GBP15, which he said was a one-off purchase.

    “It’s not cheap, but it’s limited. It’s never going to happen again,” said Callaghan, 35, who works in financial services and was visiting London from Dublin.

    Now that the queen has died, he decided to buy a memento “before all the stocks run out.”

    “Because, again, it’s quite a historic thing. You’re never going to see a queen live until this long or reign this long,” Callaghan said. “And not only that, but we’re probably not going to have another queen for another century”.

    There’s likely to be big demand for King Charles III souvenirs, and vendors of unofficial royal merchandise like Ibrahim are poised to capitalise on it, raising questions over copyright. But it’s unlikely that the royal family will take legal action, according to a lawyer specialising in trademark law.

    “Given the fascination with the monarchy it would be a full-time job to stop unlicensed merchandise,” said Charlotte Wilding, a partner at the firm Wedlake Bell.

    “I suspect the royal family takes the view that it would rather not punish the general public for its ‘support,’ even if that support may not be in the correct form,” Wilding said by email.

    “Bad press is just not something the royal family want to be a part of or risk being a part of, even if they are legally in the right.”

    In the meantime, official vendors of royal gifts are observing a 10-day mourning period.

    One of them, the Royal Collection Trust, which manages public access to the queen’s residences, said on its website that its shops have closed in London, Windsor and Edinburgh and online sales of items like Buckingham Palace magnets have been suspended.

    With no official items to snag, 74-year-old tourist from suburban Detroit Judy Kline spent GBP32 on souvenirs at a tourist shop at London’s famed Piccadilly Circus, including several ornate blue and white fridge magnets with the queen’s portrait.

    “I have some friends who are very envious that they’re not on this trip with us. I wanted to give them a little token,” Kline said.

    Kline said she felt a certain affinity with the royals and wanted to buy King Charles III memorabilia but would be departing before any arrived at souvenir shops and stalls.

    “The prince – I mean the king – is a year younger than I am. So I saw him as a little kid, and he was like my peer, you know?” Kline said. “And then their grandkids are just a little bit younger than our grandkids.”

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