With her embellished hats and vibrant clothing, it’s nearly impossible to miss Queen Elizabeth when she’s out and about. But there is one thing about the royal’s public appearances that you may have missed: the fact that she always carries a black Launer handbag.

Though it may seem like she just needs a place to stash a few items, royal historian Hugo Vickers once revealed to People that the monarch actually uses her purse — she’s said to have owned over 200 of the same style over the years — to convey secret messages to her staff.

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“It would be very worrying if you were talking to the Queen and saw the handbag move from one hand to the other,” he said, explaining that the gesture means that she wants her staff to usher her away. Placing her bag — which is said to have long handles in order to make it easier to shake hands with others — on the floor sends this message as well. If she sits the bag on the dinner table, she’s signaling that she wants the event to be wrapped up in five minutes.

Of course, Prince Philip‘s wife does keep a few items in her iconic purse. According to royal expert and author Bedell Smith, the Queen is just like the rest of us, bringing along everyday necessities such as a pair of reading glasses, mints, a tube of lipstick (Clarins is said to be one of her favorite brands), a compact mirror, and a pen.

On Sundays, the Queen also carries a “crisply folded” £5 or £10 note that is donated to the church she attends, as well as a purse hook that attaches to tables, which helps ensure that her staff doesn’t misinterpret one of her purse gestures. She also stows a few lucky charms that were gifts from her children, and a family photo or two. Any spare clothing she needs, such as an extra pair of gloves or tights, are carried by her ladies-in-waiting. Who knew?

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