Former Obama Employee Recalls Embarrassing Incident With The Queen And Her Handbag

Katie O'Malley
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

From ELLE

Among the many details we know about the royal family, including their most adorable couple moments and love of pizza, it’s that no one is allowed to touch the Queen’s handbag.

And when we say ‘no one’, we mean no one.

Of course, laying your mitts on anyone’s handbag, royalty or not, is universally a 'no no' given the multitude of private items – tampons, diary, phone – the accessory is used for carrying. However, one former employee of the Obama family learned the hard way that you should never go near Her Majesty’s arm candy.

Capricia Penavic Marshall, a former chief of protocol for the United States, has recalled an incident which took place during former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to Buckingham Palace in 2011 to People.


Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

Marshall – who previously served as social secretary during the Clinton administration – said that she was accustomed to offering to take women’s bags during official engagements.

As a result, when the Queen walked out onto the palace lawn for the arrival ceremony for the Obamas that year, Marshall made a slight move forward to take the 94-year-old’s bag.

‘As Her Majesty walked out, I made a comment to my counterpart. I said, “Oh, my goodness, Her Majesty has her bag”,' she told the publication. ‘And I made an ever so slight move with my left foot.’

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Marshall said that as a result of her subtle movement, she was pushed back against the wall by a member of the Queen’s security team who told her 'Do not touch the bag.'

‘I said, “Oh, my goodness. I'm so sorry”. He goes, 'We do not touch the bag.' And I said, “Okay, I apologise. I would never. But do we know what's in the bag?” And he said, “We don't know what's in the bag. But we never touch the bag.”’

In 2012, royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith revealed the contents of the Queen’s bag which is rumoured to include a compact mirror, a Clarins lipstick, a portable hook to hang her accessory from the table, reading glasses, mint lozenges and a fountain pen.

Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

In addition, Her Majesty is believed to carry an ironed five pound note in her purse to donate to the church collection basket, despite the fact royals are widely thought not to carry change on their person.

Over the years, the Queen – who recently celebrated her 94th birthday in lockdown – is thought to use her bag for several other uses in addition to carrying around her personal items.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

For example, it has been rumoured that she switches her bag from one arm to the other to signal she wants help moving on from the conversation she’s having with someone, and will place her bag on the floor to notify her aides that she wants to leave.

Whether these signals are fictitious or not, we love the idea of a quick bag manoeuvre to signal ‘get me out of here, chaps’.

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