From the passing of the Queen Mum and Princess Margaret in the early aughts to Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021, leaving flowers and tributes to the late members of the royal family is almost as big a tradition as the changing of the guard. But for Queen Elizabeth ii, there’s been extra items people keep leaving: Paddington Bears and marmalade sandwiches, to the point that the public has been asked to stop. Here’s why Paddington is associated with Queen Elizabeth II, causing people to leave perfectly good sandwiches on the sidewalk.
For those who may have spent their childhoods without ever meeting the traveling bear, Paddington is a popular figure in children’s illustrated books in the U.K. The bear, a friendly fellow with little glasses and a battered blue duffle coat, made his debut in A Bear Called Paddington, printed in 1958, five years after the Queen’s coronation. The Brown family adopted him after finding him in a London railway station, sitting on his suitcase with a note: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
Paddington is known for being polite, giving people hard stares who upset him, and his love of marmalade sandwiches. A statute of Paddington in Leicester Square features him on a bench, eating one.
Paddington’s reign as a children’s favorite lasted almost as long as Her Majesty’s. The author, Michael Bond, wrote the first one in 1958 and the last in 2017. However, it wasn’t until 1986 when Paddington and the Queen first became associated, in Paddington at the Palace. Paddington’s 1950s roots and wholesome British qualities made him an easy figure for commemorating the Queen.
In 2006, for her 80th birthday, the Children’s Party at the Palace did a live theatrical staging of The Queen’s Handbag, where Paddington goes hunting for something to munch on in the Queen’s favorite purse.
But the primary association is relatively recent. The Paddington books may have ceased in 2017, but the movies were just getting started. These star-studded films feature Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Brown. The second Paddington film was so popular with fans and critics that it became an in-joke in Hollywood as “the greatest film ever made.”
As royal fans may remember, the Queen’s Jubilee featured a rare scene with Her Majesty playing the part of herself. (The last time she did it was for the 2012 London Olympics, in a sketch with Daniel Craig as James Bond.)
In it, she’d been joined for tea by Paddington, where they bonded over a love of marmalade sandwiches, where the Queen admitted she keeps one in her handbag for emergencies. He was sniffing around the right spot in 2006, after all.
As one of the Queen’s last public appearances before her passing at the end of the summer, the clip went viral. It also inspired artist Eleanor Tomlinson to draw an image of Elizabeth walking away, holding hands with Paddington, which went viral at the time and now again in the days after her passing. The association quickly grew so strong that the Paddington Bear Twitter account made sure to say farewell, tweeting, “Thank you ma’am, for everything.”
The funeral for Queen Elizabeth II will be held on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, and will be carried live on most channels and several streaming services starting between 4 a.m. and 5:50 a.m. ET.