A classic black handbag is a fixture in any of Queen Elizabeth’s ensembles and is one of her most beloved and called-upon accessories. She is rarely, if ever, seen without one and carries it both indoors and outdoors.
Her go-to is a patent top handle bag from Launer, a heritage British luxury handbag and leather small goods brand. The Queen reportedly owns more than 200 Launer bags and according to Town & Country, her favourite styles are “the black leather Royale, black patent leather Traviata and a third custom handbag”.
But what exactly goes into the signature handbag is shrouded by an air of mystery. It’s difficult to imagine that the Queen might have to carry a purse, keys, or phone on her person, let alone the other hallmarks of handbags like loose change and a packet of tissues.
But her handbag isn’t purely for sartorial purposes either. We take a closer look at what secrets the Queen’s handbag holds:
What does the Queen carry in her handbag?
One may be surprised by what the Queen actually carries in her handbag. According to Phil Dampier, author of What’s in the Queen’s handbag: And other royal secrets, she carries all manner of things, including dog treats.
Mr Dampier told Hello! magazine in 2016 that the monarch packs “treats for her much-loved corgis; sometimes a crossword cut from a newspaper by a servant in case she has time to kill; a penknife’ a diary and a small camera”.
He said the camera is used by the Queen “to take pictures of visiting presidents and other VIPs”, whereas the practicality of the penknife is a “throwback to her days as a girl guide”.
The Queen has also been photographed taking out a pair of glasses from her handbag, in a rare glimpse inside it. According to various sources, it is also said to contain mint lozenges, a fountain pen, a “metal make-up case” reportedly gifted by Prince Philip, and “good luck charms including miniature dogs, horses, saddles and brass horsewhips… and a handful of family photographs”.
Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith, who wrote Elizabeth the Queen: The Woman Behind The Throne, also claimed the bag contains a portable hook which is used to hang it under tables, as well as more common items like a mirror and lipstick.
Her Majesty has been seen taking lipstick from her bag and reapplying it in public before.
She also said the Queen always carries a £5 note to give as a donation to the church collection on Sundays. According to Ms Bedell Smith, the monarch occasionally increases her donation to £10, which is the highest she will go.
However, the Queen doesn’t carry necessities such as extra pairs of gloves, needles, thread and safety pins. Those items are carried by her ladies-in-waiting instead, says Ms Bedell Smith.
Who designs her handbags?
According to its website, Launer has been supplying the monarch with handbags since 1968, which means the brand is well-placed to divulge insider information about them.
Launer CEO Gerald Bodmer said in 2018 that Queen Elizabeth always has a handbag with her because “she doesn’t feel fully dressed without her handbag”.
But it goes beyond just completing her outfit - Mr Bodmer added in the same interview that Her Majesty is specific about what she likes or dislikes about a bag.
“If the Queen doesn’t like what we’ve made her, she won’t wear it,” he said. “She definitely knows what she wants.”
It has been reported that the handbag is also used to send discreet signals to the Queen’s staff.
According to the Telegraph, if Her Majesty places her handbag on the table at dinner, staff are to take it as a cue that she wants the event to end in the next five minutes.
If she places it on the floor, it signals that she is not enjoying whatever conversation she is currently engaging in and wants to be rescued by her lady-in-waiting.