On Saturday, at the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Party in the Palace, she may have been watching from the comfort of her home, but Her Majesty - and her handbag - delighted viewers with an unexpected appearance alongside Paddington Bear. In a hilarious skit, she revealed she also keeps a marmalade sandwich in her bag for emergencies, noting that she "always likes to save one for later", and now we're all wondering what else makes the cut.
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The contents of a woman's purse are sacred and personal, so it should come as no surprise that Queen Elizabeth keeps items of significance in hers. For the monarch, who has been in the public arena for decades, her trusty handbags have become an iconic symbol of her royal style – leaving royal fans to speculate what exactly lies inside.
The Queen with her Launer handbag at Ascot 2021
Long before the term It-Bag was coined, Prince William's grandmother had found the perfect bag suitable for her informal walkabouts, state engagements and trips to the races. The boxy-shaped bag made by Launer, which is always carried on the royal's left arm, is compact enough to not get in the way when the Queen shakes hands, but is large enough to hold everything she needs.
Back in 1981, Launer was granted a royal warrant for service to Her Majesty. The owner of the company Gerald Bodmer told HELLO!: "All bags made for the Queen are bespoke, made of the softest calf leather. The style she has been using most in recent years is the Traviata, a simple shape with short handles and the famous Launer silver twisted rope logo used as a clasp on the front."
Launer Traviata leather tote bag, £2,090, Selfridges
All of the royal's handbags are lined with a very lightweight full-grain suede, in such a way that she can easily find objects inside. As for what those objects could be? Only HRH knows for sure, but well-informed opinion suggests that along with her reading glasses, other practical must-haves include a handkerchief, mints and a fountain pen – not forgetting a portable hook which is used to hang the bag neatly under tables.
The Queen at the London Commonwealth Institute in 2002
Phil Dampier, the author of What's In The Queen's Handbag: And Other Royal Secrets, told HELLO! that Her Majesty carries treats for her much-loved corgis and "sometimes a crossword cut from a newspaper by a servant in case she has time to kill" as well as "a throwback to her days as a girl guide – a penknife."
Phil noted that the Queen likes to have a diary and a small camera, which she uses "to take pictures of visiting presidents and other VIPs." Her Majesty also always makes sure to have a pair of binoculars at horse races.
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For royal fans wondering if the Queen carries a mobile phone, the answer, Phil said, is no. "She doesn't really use it very often, just when she is driving around Balmoral or Windsor or Sandringham on days off," he shared, adding that anyone wanting to get in touch "knows how to contact her!"
The Queen also keeps a small mirror and a lipstick handy. Although it's not confirmed exactly which shade she prefers, she's rarely seen without a slick of fuchsia pink like Elizabeth Arden's Wildberry. Rumour has it, if she keeps a fragrance in her purse it would be one by Floris, the longest-reigning British beauty company in royal favor, boasting the warrant since 1820.
Elizabeth Arden lipstick in Wildberry, £22, Amazon
Apart from a woman's essentials, it is understood the Queen keeps a small number of mementos close to her heart when she's out and about. According to Phil, "One of her most personal and prized possessions in the bag is a small metal make-up case," that Prince Philip gave her as a wedding gift nearly 70 years ago.
Her Majesty also keeps good-luck charms, including miniature dogs, horses, saddles and brass horsewhips, which were mostly gifts from her children in addition to a handful of family photographs.
The Queen at the Home Park, Windsor in 1999
"She would feel lost without [her purse]," Phil said. "It's her most valued possession and a valuable tool. The Queen would never go anywhere without her handbag. The only time she might not have it by her side is when she is in a completely relaxed environment, like up at Balmoral."
The royal's purse has often been described as her "comfort blanket." Not only does it contain personal possessions and practical items, but it plays a key role in helping her manage her public life.
HRH in Wellington, New Zealand in 1977
The handbag is also a key mode of communication, used to send out coded signals to staff and guests at lunches and other events. When the Queen places her bag on the table it means she wishes to leave in around five minutes, while putting it on the floor tells aides to speak to a guest or move them along the table.
During meet-and-greets, the royal may choose to "drop the bag to one side in a certain manner, telling her staff it's time for her to move on." A lady-in-waiting will then join the conversation, allowing the monarch to slip away without causing any offence. The monarch, who meets thousands of people each year in the course of her work, may also use the solid, square bag to gain personal space when someone gets a little too close.
So just how many handbags does the Queen own? About 300, Phil revealed. The responsibility to look after the coveted accessory lies with the monarch's trusted designer and dresser, Angela Kelly. Let's just say, that's a lot of baggage to carry!
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