So what's really inside that royal handbag? PEOPLE investigates

By Simon Perry and Michelle Tauber
Updated July 09, 2015 02:15 PM
Credit: Mario Testino /Art Partner

George & Charlotte s big day out! Marked by country warmth and classic style, the royals celebrate a christening fit for a princess. Subscribe now for an exclusive look inside the special day – only in PEOPLE!

But they do raise several key questions. Fret not, royal watchers: We’ve got answers.

Why does the Queen pose with her purse?

As it did in Prince George’s 2013 christening portraits, once again Queen Elizabeth’s black handbag has turned up like an honored guest in the new set of portraits (albeit one that sits on the floor).

“It’s simple,” a royal source tells PEOPLE. “The Queen carries her handbag into the room for the photograph, puts it down and the photo is taken. It’s so normal, so usual. That’s exactly what would happen. There are many, many group photographs where the Queen’s handbag is seen.”

Okay. But what exactly is in the Queen’s purse?

This age-old question has so stymied the 89-year-old monarch’s subjects that it even inspired a 2007 book, What’s in the Queen’s Handbag? And Other Royal Secrets, by Phil Dampier and Ashley Walton.

“She may have had a small camera in it, as she likes to take impromptu snaps,” Dampier tells PEOPLE.

“She will have perhaps had her glasses in there, or her sunglasses in there if she was going out in the garden.”

“She would feel lost without it,” he adds. “It’s her most valued possession and a valuable tool. The Queen would never go anywhere without her handbag. The only time she might not have it by her side is when she is in a completely relaxed environment, like up at Balmoral, and she’s out driving or something.”

Prince George Steals the Spotlight on Walk to Charlotte’s Christening

Dampier notes that during the Queen’s recent visit to Germany, fans there were so enthralled with the royal handbag that a German TV show dedicated an entire program to the subject. (We can only hope for an English-language version soon.)

Where was Prince Harry?

Although he posed for the big group photo at Prince George’s christening, Harry missed his niece’s big day as he continues his dream job in Africa.

What are the paintings on the walls behind the royal family?

The group portrait was snapped in the Drawing Room at the Queen’s Sandringham House, which features a musical theme. According to a press release from the palace, “The portraits set into the wall panelling in the background of the photograph were painted by Edward Hughes in 1896 and depict the two youngest daughters of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra – Princesses Victoria and Maud.”

For much more from behind the scenes of Princess Charlotte’s christening, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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