A Royal Secret: Why Princess Diana Always Carried Tiny Clutches

Image credit: Legion-Media

Princess Diana is usually regarded as the most prominent rebel of the royal family.

And not just because she eventually divorced her unfaithful husband, which was seen as very controversial at the time. Her clothes were very controversial too: she would often wear quite risque dresses that flew in the face of royal protocol: tight, short, with open shoulders and deep cleavage.

Take her "revenge dress", for example, a skimpy black affair with a provocatively low shoulder line. Lady Di wore it to a public event when she learned Prince Charles had publicly admitted he had been having an affair.

And yet, despite her low-burning rebellion, Diana always remained a lady in everything she did, taking every precaution to avoid any public embarrassment. Any misstep could have ruined her reputation and would have been splashed across the front pages of all the world's tabloids. So even as she pushed the envelope of decency, she made sure the line never got crossed.

Her entire image hinged on impeccability. The people's princess had to keep playing her role to perfection at all times. Thus, vast amounts of hairspray were used to make sure her hairdo remained intact even in the strongest wind.

Whenever she attended a public event in the evening, she would always be carrying a small satin clutch that would perfectly match the colour of her dress. These tiny handbags soon became her calling card, and few people ever wondered why she always carried one.

As it turned out, this small accessory had an important function that the general public remained unaware of for years. Just like Queen Elizabeth used her famous handbag to relay commands to her assistants, Diana's clutches also had a hidden purpose.

Designer Anya Hindmarch made an unexpected public confession recently. She made custom bags for Princess Diana for a long time.

Apparently, Lady Di used them to ... cover up the cleavage of her dress whenever she had to lean forward too low! She jokingly referred to them as her "cleavage handbags."

If you take a closer look at archival photographs of Lady Di, you may notice she would usually be holding her handbag against her chest as she got out of a vehicle. The goal was to prevent photographers from seeing too much inside her dress as she leaned forward towards them. Fully aware that when she leaned forward, her deep cleavage would be too revealing, she started ordering these handbags that were exactly the right size to let her cover herself up and maintain her impeccable reputation.

Lady Di's sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, also took to carrying handbags for purposes other than their intended use. She will hold a handbag with both hands at public gatherings to avoid awkward handshakes. So while a tiny handbag may look like a useless accessory, you never know what it's really being used for...