Queen Elizabeth II's Secret Handbag Signals and Other Royal Etiquette Tips

Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast has revealed how Queen Elizabeth II sends secret signals to members of staff with her handbag on official visits.

In a bonus episode of the podcast examining different examples of royal etiquette, Chief Royal Correspondent Jack Royston heard from author and royal commentator Kristen Meinzer about the subtle nuances of the Queen's "handbag code."

"The handbag is not just there to hold precious items for the Queen," Meinzer told Royston, "it's also to send signals to her team."

"Supposedly if she's standing around at an event and mingling with people and talking, and she switches her handbag from one arm to the other, she's telling her staff she'd like someone to interrupt and end the conversation," Meinzer continued.

For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast:

The 95-year-old monarch also has a signal to act as a last resort if she wants to make a hard exit.

According to Meinzer: "If you're with the Queen and she moves her bag, not from one arm to the other and not to a table, but if she sets it on the floor—that's it. The conversation's over and a lady-in-waiting or someone else will come to the rescue."

The revelations regarding the monarch's handbag signals was presented as an example of wider royal etiquette discussed by Royston and Meinzer.

According to Royston, the first etiquette point to consider when meeting the Queen is to not go in for a hug; "no physical contact at all unless she offers her hand for you to shake".

An example of a breach in royal hugging etiquette came when former first lady Michelle Obama first visited Buckingham Palace in 2011. At a reception for G20 leaders and their spouses Obama was seen putting her arm around the monarch, which sparked headlines across the western world accusing her of breaking royal protocol.

The Queen, however, was not phased by this genuine showing of affection and returned the gesture by placing her arm around Obama in return. As Royston told Meinzer on The Royal Report, the Queen doesn't seem to take the strict etiquette protocols too seriously:

"From her point of view, she's so dedicated to service that I don't think she would ever let any kind of royal rule or piece of royal etiquette get in the way of what is a diplomatic charm offensive on behalf of the British government."

Another example of royal etiquette discussed in the bonus episode is that of what to call the Queen should you meet her.

British royal protocol dictates that when you first meet the Queen you address her as "Your Majesty," never "Your Royal Highness," as majesty outranks royal highness in the order of precedence. After you have used the first greeting, thereafter the Queen is simply called "ma'am."

But what should you do if you meet the Queen and want to do it for the 'Gram? Don't. According to Meinzer, "we are not allowed to take selfies with the royals."

Queen Elizabeth II Handbag
Queen Elizabeth II uses her handbag to send signals to her staff members according to "The Royal Report" podcast. Photographed (L) at Sandringham House February 5, 2022 and (R) at Royal Ascot June 19, 2021. JOE GIDDENS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images