While the average person has an inbox, a mailbox or a toppling stack of papers on their desk, Queen Elizabeth also begins her workday by checking documents and dishing out her signature where needed. The only difference is that the queen’s papers get delivered in an iconic red box which is, according to PopSugar, a “briefcase-style box covered in red leather that is used to convey daily dispatches from the government to the monarch.”
The queen receives a red box every single day, except her two official days off every year which are, according to Hello!, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. No wonder Her Royal Highness is so frequently called the hardest-working member of the royal family! The contents of the red box are from the government and might contains papers from the cabinet or from foreign or commonwealth offices, per PopSugar. In some cases, the queen must sign the documents, and in other situations, the papers are designed to brief her prior to state meetings.
Why is Queen Elizabeth's briefcase red
The red box, also called a “Despatch Box,” is meant to symbolize the “democratic system of government,” according to the box manufacturers, Barrow, Hepburn & Gale. The red boxes reportedly date back to Queen Elizabeth I and even accompany the monarch around the world on her many international trips.
Why are the boxes red? There are two theories. According to the box manufacturers, the first story claims that Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, simply preferred the color red, which was commonly used in the arms of his family. But there’s a second story, dating back to the 16th century, that narrates how Queen Elizabeth I’s representative, Francis Throckmorton, gifted the Spanish Ambassador, Bernardino de Mendoza, with a uniquely made red box filled with black puddings. The red box became a symbolic extension of the queen, or, more importantly, an extension of her communication.
Not all monarchs have opted for a red box
If you’re a fan of The Crown series on Netflix, you’re very familiar with the red box and the role it plays in Queen Elizabeth’s evolving reign. There’s even a sweet encounter in the series between young Elizabeth and her father, King George VI, who advises her to flip the red box upside down and read the contents in that order because members of the government who want to “hide” material from the monarch, will slip it in the bottom. Like many moments from The Crown, it’s tough to determine if that scene is accurate or false, but despite its whimsy, the moment does capture the vital line of communication that the red box represents between the monarch and the government.
According to Hello!, the red box is prepared by someone called “the Page of Presence.” Though tradition and protocol is important to the royal family, that all-important box has changed a bit over the years. According to the manufacturers, Barrow, Hepburn & Gale, King George V (grandfather to Queen Elizabeth,) used a black box called ‘The King’s Despatch Box’ instead of a red one. Only time will tell if the next in line to the throne will retain the red or take the black when receiving daily documents.
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