LONDON • The diminutive 74-year-old Brenda Hale looks like any other Englishwoman of her generation: grey hair cut in no particular style, sensible dark clothes of no particular fashion, half-rimmed glasses perched at the top of her noise, and a soft voice. Just about her only attention-grabbing asset is an unusual taste for wearing large sparkling brooches in the shape of insects or animals.

Yet as improbable as it may seem, Lady Hale is now a top star in her country. British newspapers are full of articles about her career and activities. Journalists are descending on Richmond, the small market town in Yorkshire in the north of England where she was born, eager to talk to anyone who can recall her youthful pursuits. And Internet searches for brooches similar to those she is wearing have soared, from potential customers as far afield as the United States or Ukraine.

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