Everything You Need to Know About Queen Elizabeth II's Iconic Red Box

Everything You Need to Know About Queen Elizabeth II's Iconic Red Box

February 6, 2019

There are a few images that are indelibly associated with the British monarchy and with Queen Elizabeth herself: the famous royal crowns, the guards at Buckingham Palace, the queen’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of handbags, and, of course, her corgis. Another image that is deeply associated with the monarchy is the famous “red box,” a briefcase-style box covered in red leather that is used to convey daily dispatches from the government to the monarch. Like many elements of the monarchy, some information about the use and history of these boxes is available, though not everything.

Red boxes for governmental papers are nothing new. In fact, the tradition of using wooden boxes, covered in red leather, for government dispatches dates back to the 1860s. The red boxes weren’t just used to send information to the monarchs, though: several government ministers would traditionally receive and carry the boxes for sensitive papers and important information. According to the Daily Mail, however, an initiative began in 2015 to replace the red boxes and hard copies of papers with digital copies and smartphones.

The Queen, however, still receives her daily red box, having one delivered every single day except for her two official days off: Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. These boxes contain important documents from her Cabinet and from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the queen to review in her role as head of state. While some of the documents contained in the boxes require her immediate attention or even her formal signature to move forward, others are simply information so that the monarch can stay aware of the proceedings in the government or be well-briefed prior to important meetings.

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