What is the story behind the monarch’s famous red box?

·2-min read

King Charles III is likely to receive important documents in the famous red boxes used by the monarch and Government ministers.

The boxes, made by luxury British leather goods company Barrow Hepburn & Gale, contain a range of papers, including those that require a signature, briefing documents and information about forthcoming meetings.

While all Government boxes are embossed with the royal cypher, the Queen’s personal box carried the words “The Queen”.

The King will have his own cypher, suggesting he is set to receive new boxes to mark the start of his reign.

While English queens use the St Edward’s crown (or a variant of it) in their cypher, kings traditionally use the more rounded Tudor crown.

Barrow Hepburn & Gale says on its website that its boxes “follow their holder around the world, ensuring they can execute the responsibilities of their office”.

It added: “Wherever in the world the Sovereign or minister is, the red box is close by.

“Our despatch boxes are not only an elegant design, but are functional and secure.”

In a Facebook social media post in September 2015, the Royal Family account said the Queen received red boxes every day of her reign, including weekends, but not on Christmas Day.

The documents were sent from the private secretary’s office to the monarch in a locked box, it said.

The post also said the Queen was still using in 2015 the boxes which were made for her Coronation in 1953.

It said they had been “periodically refurbished” to keep them in a good condition.

Regarding the history of the boxes, Barrow Hepburn & Gale said the modern role of boxes in the governance process “has not changed for over a century”.

It added: “There are two possible reasons why the despatch box became the iconic red colour.

“The widely-accepted reason relates to Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria, who is said to have preferred the colour as it was used prominently in the arms of his family, the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

“However, there is a school of thought with origins dating back to the late 16th century, when Queen Elizabeth I’s representative Francis Throckmorton presented the Spanish Ambassador, Bernardino de Mendoza, with a specially constructed red briefcase filled with black puddings.

“It was seen as an official communication from the Queen, and so the colour red became the official colour of the state.”