Why Queen Elizabeth Had Her Signature Handbag by Her Side at Her Final Engagement

The CEO of Launer, purveyor of Queen Elizabeth's iconic purses, spoke exclusively with PEOPLE, saying the monarch once said, "I don't feel dressed without a handbag"

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Queen Elizabeth greets newly elected leader of the Conservative party Liz Truss as she arrives at Balmoral Castle for an audience where she will be invited to become Prime Minister and form a new government on September 6, 2022 in Aberdeen, Scotland. The Queen broke with the tradition of meeting the new prime minister and Buckingham Palace, after needing to remain at Balmoral Castle due to mobility issues. (Photo by Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth and British prime minister, Liz Truss, two days before she died. . Photo: Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty

Like many busy women, Queen Elizabeth valued the power of a great handbag.

The monarch carried a black patent bag from beloved brand Launer when she appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss at Balmoral Castle on September 6, her last royal duty before she "peacefully" died two days later at age 96.

Gerald Bodmer, CEO of Launer, exclusively tells PEOPLE he and his team were honored to see the Queen with her signature purse in her final days, hanging on her arm.

"I'm amazed how she carried on carrying her bag with a walking stick," Bodmer says. "She [once] said to me, 'I don't feel dressed without a handbag.' "

(Original Caption) In the Premier's Garden. Checquers, Nr. Wendover, Bucks: Admiring the garden of the Prime Minister's country home of Checquers are (left to right) Mrs. Pat Nixon; British Premier Mr. Edward Heath; Queen Elizabeth and U.S. President and his wife are on a short tour of European countries.
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On what Queen Elizabeth was like in real life, the fashion executive says the monarch radiated charm.

"She was absolutely charming, delightful and ordinary — she was just like the lady next door," Bodmer recalls. "She was aware of everything, very smart."

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The CEO got to meet the Queen three times, explaining that she was fascinated by the production process for the luxury London label when they last spoke. An invested customer, she owned several bags from the brand, which she wore over five decades and awarded a Royal Warrant in 1968.

Elizabeth In Marrakech
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"Last time, I think it was for her 85th birthday, and I presented a bag to her at Buckingham Palace. I took my factory manager," Bodmer says. "She was quite aware of the competition, we had a really interesting conversation, it wasn't just platitudes. We were talking about the number of Chinese imports."

Years before, the Queen even visited the company's factory in Walsall, about three hours northwest of London.

Queen Elizabeth Ll, With Her Knee Bandaged And Using A Walking Stick For Extra Support, Arrives To Open The New Gates At Her Home, Sandringham. The Gates Are A Golden Jubilee Gift From The Armed Forces Of Great Britain.
Queen Elizabeth. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty

"When she came to the factory, we spent the time showing her and she wanted to know about things," he says of the 1992 trip, per company history. "She was quite witty, very nice. She an aura that was royal and this huge charisma."

Whether she was meeting with prime ministers, princes or people of the United Kingdom, Bodmer says that he and his team are humbled that the Queen reached for Launer time and time again through the years.

"Isn't that a wonderful story, that it's been there at all these important occasions," he says of her go-to accessory.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (5L), reacts after posing for a family photograph with, from left, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italy's Prime minister Mario Draghi, President of the European Council Charles Michel, and US President Joe Biden during an evening reception at The Eden Project in south west England on June 11, 2021. - G7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States meet this weekend for the first time in nearly two years, for three-day talks in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. (Photo by JACK HILL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JACK HILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Much has been made of what the Queen kept in her iconic purse, most famously toting the Traviata style.

During her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June, she gave a glimpse of her humorous side when she playfully pulled a marmalade sandwich from her handbag during a pre-recorded skit with Paddington Bear.

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