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People are mourning Queen Elizabeth — and buying lots of commemorative merchandise

Souvenir shops sell memorabilia of the late Queen Elizabeth II near Buckingham Palace in London.
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Souvenir shops sell memorabilia of the late Queen Elizabeth II near Buckingham Palace in London.

LONDON — Britain's longest-reigning monarch may be gone, but she'll certainly never be forgotten. And now, if you want, you can get that printed on a t-shirt.

Royal souvenirs have been around almost as long as the British monarchy itself — people have been shelling out for Jubilee memorabilia since the 1600s, according to Buckingham Palace. The Platinum Jubilee marking Queen Elizabeth's 70 years on the throne in June was no exception, producing all sorts of celebratory collectibles.

In recent days, they've been joined on window displays and store shelves with a new, more somber category of merchandise, honoring the late queen with tote bags, t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, mugs, magnets and more.

Citizens from across the U.K. have traveled to London ahead of Elizabeth's state funeral on Monday to pay their respects in person to Britain's longest-serving monarch.
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
/
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Citizens from across the U.K. have traveled to London ahead of Elizabeth's state funeral on Monday to pay their respects in person to Britain's longest-serving monarch.

Selections at the gift shop Cool Britannia included t-shirts with pictures of the queen at different ages of her life, overlaid with the words "Forever in Our Hearts," as well as mugs inscribed with the years she was born and died and a message of gratitude.

The store is right near Buckingham Palace and Green Park, where droves of mourners have descended in recent days to lay down flowers, flags, stuffed animals and handwritten notes as far as the eye can see. And lots of people passing by are stopping in for merchandise, according to an employee who agreed to an interview. (NPR is not naming her because she is a minor.)

Maria Donderichi wears a commemorative shirt in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II near Buckingham Palace.
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
/
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Maria Donderichi wears a commemorative shirt in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II near Buckingham Palace.

She says the current bestsellers are pretty much anything with the queen's face on it, including souvenirs from the Platinum Jubilee and merchandise produced since the queen's death — an occasion the country has long planned for out of necessity.

The shop worker says as soon as the queen's death was announced, suppliers reached out to the store letting them know that memorabilia to mark the occasion was now available. A colleague had to drive to Liverpool — a roughly four-hour cross-country trip — overnight to retrieve them in time for the next day.

The store predicted that demand would be high, she added, so they're not exactly selling out. But the shop's manager, who identified himself as Wahid KVC, says some popular items are running out — especially a commemorative tote bag with the queen's face on both sides.

Selections at gift shops included t-shirts with pictures of the queen at different ages, overlaid with the words "Forever in Our Hearts," as well as mugs inscribed with her birth and death years and a message of gratitude
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
/
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Selections at gift shops included t-shirts with pictures of the queen at different ages, overlaid with the words "Forever in Our Hearts," as well as mugs inscribed with her birth and death years and a message of gratitude

Notably missing from the shelves was much of any King Charles III swag, but the manager says people have started to ask. While the new monarch may have had decades to prepare for his new job, at least this one gift shop still needs a bit more time.

He says the store is definitely planning to start selling those items soon, but hasn't gotten them from suppliers yet, likely because of delays caused by the 10-day national mourning period.

That window is very much in progress, as London is still bursting with locals and visitors lining up to pay their respects to the queen as her body lies in state at Westminster Hall.

Royal souvenirs have been around almost as long as the British monarchy itself — people have been shelling out for Jubilee memorabilia since the 1600s, according to the Palace.
/ Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
/
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Royal souvenirs have been around almost as long as the British monarchy itself — people have been shelling out for Jubilee memorabilia since the 1600s, according to the Palace.

A few streets away, mourner Maria Donderici was heading from the line to the pub dressed in a blue t-shirt with pictures of the queen young and old, wrapped in the outline of a heart. "You will stay in our hearts," it read.

Donderici says she ordered it from Amazon to wear on that day specifically. She waited in line for some eight hours, all told.

"Plus I love the royal family," she added, "so I wanted to have something as a keepsake."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.