The Real Reason Queen Elizabeth II Carried a Purse All the Time

Updated: Sep. 19, 2022

It wasn't just a fashion statement

queen elizabeth purse handbag bagShutterstock

Editor’s note: Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who sat on the throne for 70 years, has died at 96 years old. In a statement on Sept. 8, 2022, the Royal Family website writes, “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.” The Reader’s Digest team sends condolences to the royal family and all of Britain at this time as we honor her life and legacy.

Queen Elizabeth II certainly knew how to accessorize. You’d be hard-pressed to find a picture of Her Majesty without one of her signature Launer handbags. She reportedly owned more than 200 of them!

But just as the queen had a few fascinating secrets about herself, there was more to these purses than met the eye. In a fashion that echoed the suave subtlety of James Bond, Queen Elizabeth used her purse to send secret messages to her staff. (There was also a little-known reason behind her neon outfits.)

These signals helped her get out of conversations any time she pleased. If the queen moved her classic handbag from its normal spot on her left arm to her right arm while she was talking with someone, her handlers knew that she wanted to wrap it up. Putting her bag on the floor was a sign that she needed to be saved from an uncomfortable encounter ASAP. If she was at dinner and placed it on the table, that meant she wanted to end the event in the next five minutes.

As for what the queen kept in her bag, royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith says the items weren’t all that different from what normal women carry with them: a mirror, lipstick, mint lozenges and reading glasses. As for the rest of the royal family, they have their own dress code rules they have to follow.