HAMILTON, Ala. (WIAT) — When a classmate told Anna Claire Cantrell of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, she had to hold back the tears.

“I’ve been very upset,” Anna Claire said Thursday, just hours after the announcement that the reign of Great Britain’s longest-serving monarch was over. “I didn’t want to cry in school in front of everybody.”

Since age 5, Anna Claire has had a royal obsession: a fascination that’s garnered national headlines and made the sixth grader Marion’s County, Alabama’s resident British expert.

On multiple occasions, Anna Claire has even become Queen Elizabeth — donning Her Majesty’s cape, crown, and even her own two corgis, named Maddie Elizabeth and Winston. 

A few years ago, when she was 7, Anna Claire reached out to the queen to tell her a little about herself. 

“I’m writing to you because even though I live in another country, you are my favorite person,” Anna Claire wrote. “And one day I want to come to England and see where you live.”

It wasn’t long before Anna Claire received a response. 

“The queen wishes me to write and thank you for the card, your message and the photograph you sent,” a Lady-in-Waiting wrote to Anna Claire. 

Anna Claire was ecstatic. 

“It was very exciting,” she said. “I was so happy to see that she cared about me and cared about what I had to say about her.”

Because of her reputation for loving all things royal, when folks in Marion County come across British souvenirs or trinkets, they save them for Anna Claire. She’s gotten British money, magazines and books about the royal family, and much more. Once, she received a car window cling of Queen Elizabeth’s silhouette.

“I gave her a week to let that be on my car,” her mother said. “And I said I can’t do this no more. People would almost wreck staring at our car.”

The day of Queen Elizabeth’s death has understandably been difficult for Anna Claire. 

After learning about the royal death, Anna Claire’s teacher asked that students look up and write down facts about the queen to share. Anna Claire didn’t need to look anything up. She wrote down a quote delivered by Queen Elizabeth on her 21st birthday in 1947.

“I declare before you all that my whole life — whether it be long or short — shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” the monarch said.

Anna Claire said that she’d like to travel to London to pay her respects, but whether that’s possible or not, she’ll remember the queen as a great leader and role model. 

“I looked up to her for a very long time,” Anna Claire said of the late queen. “And I’m going to miss her very much.”