Whatever You Do, Don't Touch Queen Elizabeth's Purse
In former U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall’s new book, Protocol: The Power of Diplomacy and How to Make It Work for You, she reveals surprising and sometimes heartwarming anecdotes about the years she spent working with both the Clintons and the Obamas.
Naturally, Queen Elizabeth makes a cameo or two in the book of etiquette.
In an interview with People, Marshall recalled visiting Buckingham Palace with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011. As the Queen arrived to greet the couple, Marshall moved to take the monarch’s purse, but was quickly thwarted.
“As Her Majesty walked out, I made a comment to my counterpart. I said, 'Oh, my goodness, Her Majesty has her bag.' And I made an ever so slight move with my left foot,” Marshall told People. "He, with both of his hands, pushed me back against the wall and said, 'Do not touch the bag.' and I said, 'Oh, my goodness. I'm so sorry.’ He goes, 'We do not touch the bag.' And I said, 'OK, I apologize. 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.'"
Though likely discouraged against exploring more purse-related inquiries, Marshall ultimately got some answers. "I did learn later on that she perhaps uses the bag as a signal," Marshall explained. "If it's on one part of her arm, it means the meeting is going fine, leave me alone. But if she lowers it, it means, 'End this now. I want to go.' People have speculated that in the bag, she has a cell phone so that she can call and speak to her grandchildren, which I just absolutely adore."
Marshall also shared a sweet story about a thoughtful gift the Obamas put together for the Queen. "President and Mrs. Obama were so, so very fond of her. In doing our research, we learned that [Queen Elizabeth] had a cherished relationship with her father, and she collected anything and everything that she could about him,” Marshall shared.
Knowing what they did, Marshall and her team collected mementos from George VI’s final trip to the U.S. and put them all together in a leather portfolio.
"When she walked over and she's flipping and looking through the pages, I'm looking at her and I'm like, 'Oh, goodness, I hope that she likes it,'" Marshall remembered. "And I want to say that I saw a little glisten of a tear in her eye after she paged through it a bit. She looked to the president said, 'Thank you so very much for this.’"
Of course, that wasn’t the only gift the Obamas bestowed upon the royal. They also gave her a brooch, which she reportedly wore during Donald and Melania Trump’s 2019 visit.
“I'd like to say that she was proud to wear a piece of a presidential gift and was displaying the unity between the two nations," Marshall said of the on-the-nose accessory choice. "I think that she has the capacity to always lift the message up right now and to create those stronger bounds. But she herself is the only one who will really know."