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Posts Tagged ‘Queen Elizabeth’s purse’

Queen Elizabeth II of England suffered two wardrobe malfunctions at a private party in London for her cousin King Constantine of Greece. A fellow guest spilled something on her beautiful blue gown, leaving huge stains running down the right side, then the chain link strap on her silver handbag broke. (June 3, 2010)

Two nights ago, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain helped King Constantine of Greece celebrate his 70th birthday and, at the party, had not one but two fashion mishaps. Someone – a fellow guest, possibly, or a waiter maybe – spilled what is purported to be coffee on the 84-year-old British monarch’s pale blue floor length gown, staining it permanently. Then, on top of that, the metal strap on the Queen’s ever-present handbag broke in half.

Queen Elizabeth clutches the broken strap of her evening handbag at King Constantine's 70th birthday party in a private London home.

Poor Queen! Where were all those ladies-in-waiting when she needed them most? Couldn’t someone have thrown a cloak over the Queen’s dress to hide the stains or stood in front of her to block her from the paparazzi’s unrelenting snaps?

If the Queen was ruffled by being uncharacteristically messy, she didn’t show it. Her Majesty – who is always neat, clean, and fastidiously turned-out – held high the royal chin throughout the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad night and had a very good time, thank you, in spite of her multiple fashion faux-pas. Jolly brave, Elizabeth partied for hours alongside fellow royals — including son Prince Andrew, daughter Princess Anne, Queen Sofia of Spain, and Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, who hosted the bash at his London home.

King Constantine of Greece escorts his cousin Queen Elizabeth down the steps at the end of his 70th birthday party. Despite the obvious food stains running down the Queen's dress and the broken strap of her glittery evening bag, the Queen maintained her always noble demeanor.

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In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibowitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibovitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

Prior to her May 2007 visit to the United States, Queen Elizabeth II sat for a series of official photographs by famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Ms. Leibovitz is well known for her sometimes controversial celebrity photographs including one of a naked John Lennon hugging a fully clothed Yoko Ono.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz. Five hours after this photo shoot, Lennon was shot dead.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz.

Leibovitz has said the original concept for the now legendary John Lennon and Yoko Ono Rolling Stone cover was for both to appear nude, designed to mark the release of their album “Double Fantasy.” As legend has it, Lennon was game, shedding his clothes quickly, but Ono felt uncomfortable even taking off her top. Leibovitz recalled for Rolling Stone:

“I was kinda disappointed, and I said, ‘Just leave everything on.’ We took one Polaroid, and the three of us knew it was profound right away.”

It was December 8, 1980. Five hours later, Lennon was dead – shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of his Manhattan apartment.

Now back to what I was saying about the Queen:

Leibowitz took the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II in March 2007. One of the photos, shown below, shows a very serene Queen sitting in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace dressed in a pale gold evening dress, fur stole, and diamond tiara. The wide shot captures the Queen gazing towards a large open window and reveals some of the room’s furnishings and a reflection of a chandelier in a mirror. The room is dark except for the soft light flooding through the open window. All is calm.

Queen Elizabeth II photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

The session was going smoothly until Leibovitz asked the Queen to take off her tiara (crown) to look “less dressy” for the next photo. The Queen flew into a huff and replied:

“Less dressy? What do you think this is?”

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007. The Queen is not amused after having been asked by Leibowitz to take off her crown, which is actually a tiara.

The Queen was definitely not amused and the tiara stayed on the royal head.

The incident was caught on tape and included in a  BBC documentary “A Year with the Queen.” The BBC kept the footage and included it in a  promotional trailer for the film. The trailer shows the Queen telling an aide, “I’m not changing anything. I’ve had enough dressing like this, thank you very much” and storming out of the room.  The BBC later apologized and admitted that the sequence of events shown on the trailer had been misrepresented, as the Queen was in fact walking to the sitting in the second scene, not exiting. This led to a BBC scandal and a shake-up of ethics training. The event is known as “Tiaragate” and “Crowngate.” According to sources, the Queen was still furious about the incident months later.

Here’s the NBC-TV report:

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Queen Elizabeth's Launer handbag (4/1/09 Buckingham Palace with Obamas)

Queen Elizabeth's Launer handbag (4/1/09 Buckingham Palace with Obamas)

Since I’ve been blogging about Queen Elizabeth in general and her purse-carrying habit in particular, I’ve looked at a lot of of images of the Queen carrying purses. She seems to prefer small, unfussy black leather handbags, though she has carried a white purse before, I know. At first, the black leather handbags looked as if they could be just one bag. Closer inspection revealed slight differences in straps, patinas, and shapes. In all the bags I scrutinized, though, one theme was a constant. The clasp on the different bags was always the same. The clasp was distinctive  – covered with a gold rope emblem. The clasp looked like a string you tie on your finger to remember something. Was it a logo, perhaps? I sensed a designer lurking about.

 I was slow to catch on. Of course. The Queen doesn’t buy her purses off the rack at Macy’s; she has a royal pursemaker. That’s why the purses looked so similar. They were made by the same company.

Queen Elizabeth in Jamestown (5/4/2007) with handbag

Queen Elizabeth in Jamestown (5/4/2007) with handbag

A little further digging for the name of the designer turned up a lot of information. Evidently, not only does Her Royal Highness have a royal pursemaker to make her purses – Launer’s of London – but also a royal milliner to make her hats and a royal dressmaker to make her dresses. Currently, three British royals, The Queen, her husband Prince Philip ( AKA the Duke of Edinburgh) and their son Prince Charles (AKA the Prince of Wales) may grant “Royal Warrants of Appointment” to tradespeople who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages. The warrant allows the supplier to advertise the fact that they supply to the royal family. The Royal Warrant does not mean that these specially-honored companies must then give the Royals their goods and services for free. Rather, suppliers both continue to charge their royal customers as well as reap incredible bonuses in the marketplace courtesy of the royal endorsement.

Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth's coat-of-arms

Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth's coat-of-arms

Launer's "Royale" handbag

Launer's "Royale" handbag

Launer of London holds the Royal Warrant for supplying the Queen with her leather goods and purses. On the “About Us” page on the Launer company website, the Queen’s coat-of-arms is displayed boldly at the top left and right of the page. Under the company’s history, we read that:

photo of Queen Elizabeth II on the Launer company website

photo of Queen Elizabeth II on the Launer company website

In 1991, Her Majesty the Queen visited the factory on 4th March, spending virtually the whole afternoon with all the employees and seeing all the various stages of making both handbags and personal leather goods. This was a great honour for the company, and in the following year Launer was also given the right to add leather goods to the warrant.

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The Obamas being received at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II

The Obamas being received at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II

The Huffington Post is taking a survey on the purpose of Queen Elizabeth’s bag. Don’t forget to vote. Here is a close-up of Queen Elizabeth receiving Michelle Obama at Buckingham Palace on April 1. Inquiring minds want to know:

Why does the Queen carry her purse around her own home?

For more on the Queen’s handbag habit, read another post on this blog, “What’s in Queen Elizabeth’s Purse?”

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The Obamas met Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, April 1. The two couples exchanged gifts. The Obamas gave the queen an engraved iPod. The Queen’s new music player came already loaded with some Broadway show tunes and videos of her 2007 visit to Washington and Virginia.  The Obamas also gave the Queen a rare songbook signed by the composer Richard Rodgers. The British royals gave signed silver-framed portraits of themselves to the Obamas, their standard gift for visiting dignitaries.

The Obamas Visit Buckingham Palace. Note that the Queen has that purse in her arm although she is at home!

The Obamas Visit Buckingham Palace. Note that the Queen has that purse on her arm although she is at home!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like the following:

“Queen Elizabeth’s Grandmother Had the Gimmies”
“What’s in Queen Elizabeth’s Purse?”
“What’s Playing on Queen Elizabeth’s iPod?”

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Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the queen regnant of sixteen independent states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. All together, these countries have a combined population, including dependencies, of over 129 million.

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the queen regnant of sixteen independent states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. All together, these countries have a combined population, including dependencies, of over 129 million.

It was June 24, 1953. Queen Elizabeth II was traveling to Scotland for the first time as Queen. In her coronation at Westminster Abbey 22 days earlier, Elizabeth had worshiped as an Anglican in the Church of England in her coronation robes. As Queen she was now the head of two churches, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, which was Presbyterian. Having already been crowned in England, she now traveled to St. Giles Cathedral, the Mother Church of Presbyterianism, in Edinburgh, Scotland, to receive the ancient crown of Scotland.

When she arrived at the cathedral, the Queen was surrounded by the Scottish peerage in their velvet coats and coronets. Her husband, Prince Philip, was resplendently-dressed in a gold-braided uniform topped off by a plumed helmet. But when the crowd gathered at the ceremony got a look at Elizabeth, their new queen, they were shocked at how ordinary she looked. They had expected her to appear in her coronation robes. Instead she wore a simple gray blue coat, black leather shoes, and a gray blue felt hat. She looked just like a commoner! The most jarring part of her outfit was the big black purse she carried in the crook of her arm.

At the altar she stepped forward while the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon knelt before her in his coronation robes to proffer the crown of Scotland on a velvet cushion with gold tassels. As she (the Queen) reached toward him, her leather handbag, which was as large as a breadbox, almost hit him in the face. He quickly moved his head to avoid getting smacked by the royal purse. (1)

Since then, the Queen is rarely photographed without her purse tucked in the crook of her arm. She carries it with her throughout the day as she moves from room to room in Buckingham Palace. All tables and her desk at the palace are equipped with special hooks on which the Queen may hang her purse so that it may never be set on the floor. She never uses a clutch or a shoulderbag. Those bags would make it awkward in official duties of shaking hands and accepting flowers.

Queen Elizabeth (with black leather purse) and Prince Philip arrive at the Casino Royale World Premiere - Red Carpet - Nov. 14, 2006, London

Queen Elizabeth (with black leather purse) and Prince Philip arrive at the Casino Royale World Premiere – Red Carpet – Nov. 14, 2006, London

Enquiring minds want to know: just what does Queen Elizabeth carry in that purse? As it turns out, there is more to the royal purse than its meager contents. It doubles as a signal device. When the Queen is carrying out her royal duties at some function, she uses her purse to communicate with her servants. When she shifts the bag from one arm to another, for instance, it means she’s ready to leave. When at a banquet, if the Queen sets her purse on the floor, it’s another bad sign. She finds the conversation boring and wants to escape. However, if the royal bag dangles happily from the crook of her left arm, she is happy and relaxed. (2)

One thing that can always be found inside the Queen’s purse is an S-shaped metal meat hook that she can place on the edge of a piece of furniture and hang her purse on it. She always carries a metal make-up case given to her by Prince Philip as a wedding gift. She carries a collection of good luck charms, most of them gifts from her children, including dogs, horses, saddles, and horsewhips, reports the Daily Express, and photos of her children. She is never without her mints, chocolate drops for her corgi dogs, and a crossword or two snipped from the papers by her attendants.

Majesty magazine reports that the Queen carries a comb, a handkerchief, a small gold compact and a tube of lipstick in her handbag. On Sundays, she carries paper money to place in the collection plate at church.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) receives flowers from children as she departs St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland, March 20, 2008. The Queen handed out Maundy Thursday alms purses to 82 men and 82 women, the presentations are in recognition of their services to both church and community.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (R) receives flowers from children as she departs St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland, March 20, 2008. The Queen handed out Maundy Thursday alms purses to 82 men and 82 women, the presentations are in recognition of their services to both church and community.

(1) Kelley, Kitty. The Royals. (New York: Warner Books, 1997)
(2) Dampier, Phil and Walton, Ashley. What’s In The Queen’s Handbag: And Other Royal Secrets. (Brighton, England: Book Guild, 2007)

For more on Queen Elizabeth, look in the left column under “Categories-People-Queen Elizabeth II.” I’ve written many posts on the Queen; I hope you enjoy them!

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