During the British Queen’s state visit to Italy in 2002, Her Majesty’s fashion sense came under close scrutiny from the Italian press. Usually derided for what is considered to be her staid and rather pompous style, the Queen suddenly became the best-dressed woman in Milan. It was, however, her discreet, well-mannered handbag that drew the most attention.

One of Italy’s leading newspaper, La Repubblica, even carried a front-page story entitled ‘Ode to the Queen’s handbag’. ‘There it is,’ the articled raved. ‘That disturbing object firmly attached to her left forearm. The secret of her regality is in that little royal but so ordinary accessory’.

That ‘royal but so ordinary’ accessory was in fact made by Launer, a well-established maker of leather goods based in Britain’s industrial heartland, the Midlands, and, off an on, a holder of a royal warrant since the 1960s.

An assortment of patent leather Launer bags

The Launer ‘brand’, as it scarcely merits the term, is as quiet and as reserved as its beautifully crafted bags. Luxury here is the polar opposite of the bling. The calf, lizard and ostrich leathers are all turned and hand-machined with the maximum of attention to detail, but with the minimum of designer fuss. The gold-plated fittings, including the company’s crossed-rope emblem, are the closest concessions to ostentation.

The other great obsession of the Italian press was what the Queen actually carried in that handbag. What on earth, they wondered, could this woman who has everything possibly need to carry around with her? Her lipstick, of course, Buckingham exasperatedly revealed.