Queen Elizabeth II was famously particular and consistent about what she liked and what she didn’t. Breakfast was brought to her in a Tupperware container; Her Majesty applied her own makeup; and, come evening, she enjoyed a gin and Dubonnet with ice and a lemon slice. For more than 50 years, British label Anello & Davide supplied her with the low-heel loafers she wore on state visits, royal tours, and birthdays, broken in by a “flunky” to ensure they were comfortable. There wasn’t a staff member required to road-test her handbags, however—Her Majesty did that herself.
Rarely seen without a Launer London purse hooked on her arm, the Queen treated her handbags like an appendage, permanently in view whatever the occasion. Even in her final picture—standing by a fireplace dressed in a kilt, cardigan, blouse, and her trusty heels—her glossy Launer handbag is tucked neatly beside her. Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Her Majesty in The Crown revealed that it wasn’t just a photo prop: She regularly carried it around Buckingham Palace as she walked the hallways or sat on the sofa to watch TV.
“She once told me that she doesn’t feel dressed without a bag,” Launer’s CEO Gerald Bodmer tells Vogue. “And I completely agree, of course.” The company was founded by Sam Launer in 1940 and received a royal warrant in 1968l Bodmer took over the company in 1981. It was during his tenure that the queen commissioned Launer bags via her steadfast personal advisor and senior dresser, Angela Kelly—the Royale and Traviata were her go-tos—and she was gifted Launer by her children (likely King Charles III, according to Bodmer).
Before Launer, the queen and the queen mother acquired bags from British shoemaker Rayne, which sold styles made by Launer. (It has been widely reported that the queen received her first Launer from the queen mother in the 1950s, but Bodmer was unable to confirm.)
In 1991, Her Majesty visited the Launer factory to watch her favorite styles being made. Each bag is handmade and takes around eight hours to complete, resulting in a considerable price tag (the Traviata is upwards of $2,500).
Clearly captivated by the artisanal process, she was apparently “really interested” and spoke to every member of staff separately. “The queen had a charisma, a very good sense of humor,” Bodmer says. As for the rumors that she gave signals with her bags, from swapping arms to placing it on the floor or a table? “You don’t need to when you’re like that,” he affirms.
He’s quick to dispel hearsay that Her Majesty had more than 200 Launer bags. “She had 5 or 10, maybe 11,” he muses. The queen reused beloved styles that were several decades old, only adding to her collection—never replacing them—every few years. “They never throw them out, they never get rid of them,” he says. When Her Majesty made her memorable appearance at London Fashion Week in 2018 to present Richard Quinn with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for Design, her bag dated back to at least the ’80s and possibly earlier.
Launer bags are available in a range of colors and finishes, but Her Majesty preferred the black patent styles. For the Prince and Princess of Wales’s wedding in 2011, however, she commissioned a bespoke beige bag to wear with her lemon-yellow outfit, prompting Launer’s website to crash and sales to skyrocket.
To make the bags truly her own, she would modify them with additional pockets, a built-in coin purse, and longer handles to allow for easy handshaking. Throughout her lifetime, she ordered a few fully custom styles that weren’t available to purchase. And in her later years, she required a bespoke lightweight version of the Turandot with an interior metal framework. As for what Her Majesty kept inside her handbags? That much remains a mystery.
This post was originally published by British