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Decoding the secrets of Queen Elizabeth's purse

For nearly as long as the Queen has been in the public eye, so have her purses. The most important thing about the royal handbag, though, might not be what's inside it, but how it's worn. Just like in the spy films, Queen Elizabeth is said to use her handbag to discreetly signal her staff. We take a closer look at this essential accessory.

The Queen is rarely seen without her purse and is rumoured to own 200 Launer handbags

In this family portrait marking the Queen's 90th birthday, great-granddaugher Mia Tindall, age 2, gets to hold the purse. (Annie Leibovitz/EPA)

For nearly as long as the Queen has been in the public eye, so have her many purses.

Unlike her subjects, who must keep keys and wallets and other essentials on hand, Elizabeth has no such mundane needs. Buckingham Palace's doors are always open to her, and she travels with attendants who keep her supplied with tissue, extra gloves and whatever else she might require. Nonetheless, wherever the Queen goes, her purse goes with her.

The purse's biggest secret might not be what's inside, though, but where it's positioned. Just like you've seen in your favourite spy films, Queen Elizabeth is said to use her purse to discreetly signal her staff, shifting its location to let them know when she needs to be rescued from an awkward conversation.

As official celebrations for the Queen's birthday get underway, we take a look at one of the monarch's iconic purses, and sneak a peek inside. (Philip Street/CBC)

This weekend, representatives from across the Commonwealth will celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday with the Trooping the Colour parade and other public festivities. CBC News will bring you special coverage from London all weekend long.

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