Britain's queen of royal memorabilia

In the run-up to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, true-blue fans of the Royal Family are easy to spot. But few can rival the one our Lee Cowan discovered out in the English countryside:

It's pretty hard to miss, nestled in the rolling hills of County Durham in Northeastern England – a rather conspicuous Union Jack fluttering in the wind, as if the farmhouse below was Buckingham Palace itself.

It's the home of Anita Atkinson, a 61-year-old grandmother of three who, although not born into royalty, has become the U.K.'s queen of royal memorabilia.

"Every day I think about the Queen, which is really sad, isn't it?" she told Cowan.

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Anita Atkinson wasn't born into royalty, but she lives a life surrounded by the trappings of the monarchy.

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She's a patriotic packrat. There isn't a nook or a cranny in her house that isn't home to a British bauble. Commemorative tins jam the bookshelves; her Union Jack bed sheets are bright enough to wake the dead; and there are enough collectible tea cups for all the tea in China.

Cowan asked, "Is it fair to say this is pretty much an obsession for you?"

"Yes!" she laughed. "It's a complete obsession, it is!"

It's not all she thinks about. She does have a job, after all – she's the editor of the local newspaper, the WearDale Gazette.

She bangs out her stories on a Union Jack computer, right next to her Union Jack telephone, which (perhaps perhaps not surprisingly) rings with "God Save the Queen." 

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Anita Atkinson in her Union Jack-decorated office. 

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She didn't collect it all herself. Much of it was given to her, some by complete strangers who heard of her royal passion – and eventually the only place left to put it all was up in Atkinson's attic.

Her loft holds 3,500 items, including a carrier bag from the 1981 royal wedding, a coronation pencil, bottle tops, Charles and Diana jigsaw puzzles, another one of the Queen Mother (completely unopened), and an (empty) bottle of Bell's Whiskey.

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Royals superfan Anita Atkinson.

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"It's a very famous Scottish whiskey," she said. "Hasn't got any whiskey in it now."

"Did you drink the whiskey?" Cowan asked.

"No, I don't drink alcohol. I'm silly enough without drinking alcohol!"

Atkinson's ever-patient husband worried her collection might one day come crashing through the ceiling. So, he cleaned out an old dairy barn so she could make it her own personal museum.

She couldn't wait to show it to us – but only after she changed into something, well, a bit more British.

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Anita Atkinson welcomes Lee Cowan to her Royal Teas museum.

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Inside Royal Teas, carefully arranged to the rafters, are some 3,000 pieces of … everything.

"Is there anything you won't collect?" Cowan asked.

"No, I'll collect anything with a royal connection, yeah," she said. "Look – there's a box of tissues from 1977!"

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Inside Anita Atkinson's Royal Teas Museum.

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There's a cup and saucer from 1817, memorializing the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales; bobby pins from Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation; and a mug celebrating the last royal wedding, with a whopping mistake.

"When it arrived from China, it had Harry on it instead of William!" she said of the rarity. "Harry and Kate!"

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Why proofreading is a good idea.

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It's not the largest collection of royal memorabilia, but it used to be, according to Guinness World Records, back in 2003. "It's on page 118, right next to the largest chamber pot collection," she said. "The largest – I don't know whether you can say this, but the largest condom collection, but it's in there. To have a Guinness World Record you got to be mad."

"So, if everyone in the Guinness Book of World Records is a little mad…"

"They are!"

"Do you think you're a little mad?" Cowan asked.

"Maybe a little bit," she said, sheepishly.

When word spread of this curiously British barn, people started coming around to see it. Atkinson never intended it to be public, but last year she opened her doors, even offering those who book ahead afternoon tea.

Her loyalty to the royals extends to more than just kitsch. In 2011, she camped out for four days outside Westminster Abbey in London to get a front row seat to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Years earlier, she found herself at an event at St. James's Palace, where, to her surprise, she actually met the Queen Mother.

"I did the curtsy," Atkinson said. "And she said, 'How very nice it is to meet you, Anita.' And I thought, Oh God, the Queen Mother is calling me by my first name!  And then it just suddenly struck me that both my grandfathers were coal miners, and me dad was a bus driver, and I thought, Here I am talking to the Queen Mother like she's me best friend, and I thought, Who do you think you are?"

"Never forget it, I guess?" Cowan said.

"No, never. It was one of the best days of me life."

It takes a pretty major life event to keep Anita Atkinson away from royal pomp and circumstance. In 1981, when Prince Charles married Lady Diana, she missed it. Instead, she was home, expecting her first child, Ruth, who was due the very same day.

Turns out Ruth may once again keep Anita from this Saturday's royal wedding, too: "She is now expecting her third baby and it's due on the date of Harry and Meghan's wedding," Atkinson said. "I can't go to the royal wedding!"

"You of all people can't go to the royal wedding?"

"No, I can't. I can't. So, that's two royal weddings I've missed because of me daughter Ruth!"

Instead, Atkinson will celebrate in her own way – driving through the countryside in her ever-so-British Mini, offering those in her wake her own royal wave.

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Story produced by Deirdre Cohen.