What is the queens red box

Everything you need to know about Queen Elizabeth II's iconic red box

There are some images that are indelibly associated with the British monarchy and Queen Elizabeth: the famous royal crowns, the guards at Buckingham Palace, the seemingly inexhaustible supply of the Queen's handbags and, of course, her corgis. Another image that is deeply connected to the monarchy is the famous "red box", a briefcase box wrapped in red leather that is used to convey the government's daily broadcasts to the monarch. Like many elements of the monarchy, some information about the use and history of these boxes is available, but not all.

Red boxes for government papers are nothing new. In fact, the tradition of using red leather-covered wooden boxes for government directives dates back to the 1860s. The red boxes were not only used to send information to the monarchs: traditional government ministers received the boxes for sensitive papers and important information. According to Daily mailHowever, in 2015 an initiative was launched to replace the red boxes and paper printouts with digital copies and smartphones.

However, the Queen still receives her daily red box, which was delivered every day except for two official days off: Christmas and Easter Sunday. These boxes contain important documents from her Cabinet and from the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices that the Queen can review in her role as Head of State. While some of the documents contained in the boxes require your immediate attention or even your formal signature in order to move forward, others are mere information so that the monarch can stay informed of what is going on in the government or be well informed before important meetings.

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The details of who is currently preparing the Queen's red boxes are not quite as clear to the public. Her private office and government officials select, arrange, and deliver documents to the queen's desk. On the semi-fictional series The crown, King George VI. for example, instructs a young Elizabeth to open the box, turn it over, and then work from bottom to top, claiming that the box foremen “hide” the information the monarch is not supposed to see, burying it from below. While it's a hilarious story, no one knows if the anecdote is actually true - although Queen Elizabeth certainly learned a lot about the daily life of a monarch by shadowing her father.

The current version of the red boxes was only about 150 years old. However, the tradition of sending out a "mailing box" in some form goes back to Queen Elizabeth I, according to box manufacturers Barrow, Hepburn Sturm. The company also provides some historical information about the reason for the red color of the box and offers two plausible explanations (confirmation of the true story of the color has been lost to history).

“There are two possible reasons why the Despatch Box became the iconic red color. The widely accepted reason relates to Prince Albert, Consort, to Queen Victoria, who supposedly preferred the color as prominently used in the arms of his family, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but there is a school of thought whose origins go back to dating back to the late 16th century when the representative of Queen Elizabeth I, Francis Throckmorton, presented a specially constructed red briefcase to the Spanish ambassador Bernardino de Mendoza. It was seen as an official message from the Queen, and so the color red became the official color of the state. "

Regardless of how the boxes were made, they have become one of the most visible symbols of the monarchy and the relationship between the monarch and the government.

Image source: Getty / Mary McCartney