What Queen Elizabeth II Keeps in Her Iconic Handbag

There are several key elements that go into making up Queen Elizabeth II's instantly recognizable image. First, is the hairstyle, which has only been altered subtly over throughout the course of her reign. Secondly, the gloves, which are worn for public daytime engagements, and third her iconic collection of handbags, the contents of which are a closely guarded secret.

In her Platinum Jubilee year, marking 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II is continuing to undertake public appearances despite experiencing what Buckingham Palace has called "episodic mobility problems." Despite this and having one hand monopolized by a newly used walking stick, the queen's handbags are still an integral part of her wardrobe.

In a special jubilee television event, British breakfast show This Morning broadcast from inside Buckingham Palace on Tuesday discussing elements of the queen's life and reign.

One segment focussing on the queen's clothing involved a discussion about the much-loved handbags and importantly, what is kept inside.

Queen Elizabeth II Handbags Jubilee
They're an integral part of the queen's instantly recognizable image but who makes the monarch's iconic handbags and what does she keep inside them? (L) October 7, 2021. (C) June 19, 2018. (R) June 19, 2021. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images/

Who Makes the Queen's Handbags?

Fashion expert Gok Wan spoke with This Morning hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield from the picture gallery of the palace where the group was shown a dress made by Angela Kelly worn by the queen for her diamond jubilee.

Discussing the queen's well-known accessories, Wan explained how each design is altered with the queen's unique needs in mind:

"I got to go to the factory many years ago and meet the people that make the handbags," he said.

"The company is called Launer and she wears three different handbags which are the leather 'Diva' bag, and she has the 'Traviata' and also a custom-made one."

Launer Handbags Queen Elizabeth II
The manufacturer of Queen Elizabeth II's famous handbags is British-based Launer, which has been making bags for the royals since the 1940s. The queen with a Launer bag (L) July 8, 2021. And (R) a benchworker at Launer making one of their handbags, February 23, 1996. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images/Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Launer was founded as a fine leather goods accessories brand in the 1940s and soon won famous fans among members of the royal family and society ladies with their chic handbags.

The queen carried Launer bags throughout the 1950s and 1960s in various styles before the company hit hard times in the 1970s.

In 1981, a businessman Gerald Bodmer bought Launer with the aim of returning it to the glory of its past reputation. Today the company creates new collections and has won new fans across the world.

In 1968, the queen bestowed a royal warrant to Launer, which entitled it to display her coat of arms on their products. A royal warrant is a strictly regulated privilege to manufacturers and vendors who regularly supply products to the royals.

Wan explained that the queen's bags are "custom made" for the monarch and have special adjustments made to fit her needs.

"The strap on the arm is extended slightly so it doesn't ruffle and crease the jacket," he said, adding that: "the lining inside is bespoke in a light silk so it's not too heavy."

The queen is also reported to use her bag as a way of sending signals to staff members when she is on engagements.

What's Inside The Iconic Black Bag?

But what does the queen keep in her handbags? There have long been rumors claiming anything from a handkerchief to a panic button and a hard-boiled egg.

"Speculation has it that inside the handbags there's some mints and a crossword," Wan offered.

Lipstick is a known feature inside the queen's bags with a small hand mirror which she has been seen to take out for makeup applications on long engagements. Most recently the queen reapplied her lipstick during the Platinum Jubilee equestrian spectacular at Windsor Castle earlier this month.

Queen Elizabeth II Handbag Jubilee Equestrian Event
Queen Elizabeth II wore one of her iconic black Launer handbags to the Platinum Jubilee Royal Windsor Horse Show celebration and was photographed reapplying her lipstick during the evening. May 15, 2022. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen: The Woman Behind the Throne told The Lady magazine that in addition to the lipstick and mirror the queen keeps a pair of reading glasses and a "precisely folded" £5 or £10 note to put into the collection box at church.

"The most intriguing item she has been known to carry," Bedell Smith explained, "is a bag hook, an ingenious and sensible device."

The author then recounted a story told to her by a dinner guest of the queen's cousin who saw the monarch discreetly attach the hook to the underside of the dining table and suspend her bag from it.

Queen Elizabeth II Handbag Handkerchief
Queen Elizabeth II is known to keep a spare pair of gloves, a handkerchief and lipstick in her iconic handbags. Photographed May 9, 2018. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

It has also been reported that an extra pair of gloves is kept handy in the queen's handbag when out on engagements in case one should become soiled or mislaid during the day.

The queen's handbags are an integral part of her "rainbow wardrobe" which refers to the uniform she has adopted over the past two decades, of block-colored coats and hats with patterned day dresses underneath.

With such an array of colors to accessorize the queen has found a fashion staple that suits all combinations with the added bonus of adding an air of mystery as to just what may be kept inside.

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