Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 19:07 UK

Queen makes a web of new contacts

By Peter Hunt
BBC royal correspondent

Queen Elizabeth II with YouTube's Chad Hurley and Google's Nikesh Arora
The Queen watched YouTube clips with executives during her Google tour
The Queen, so the urban myth goes, is a cutting-edge silver surfer.

According to this account, she's listening to the Last Night of the Proms on her iPod while checking the racing results on her Blackberry and texting her grandchildren.

Such an image of a with-it monarch doesn't harm Buckingham Palace.

The truth is rather more pedestrian.

When she launched her website in 1997, in a school, she spoke of how some parents and grandparents found the worldwide web "a bit of a mystery".

And just a few years ago, she confessed to Microsoft's founder, Bill Gates, that she hadn't yet used a computer.

She since has. Her guides have been her technologically savvy husband and her son, Prince Andrew.

While most of her constitutional work is on paper inside red boxes, privately, she occasionally e-mails and texts.

Royal podcasts

She once contacted Prince Harry this way when he was at an England rugby match. The monarch is an 82-year-old who's tiptoeing rather than rushing headlong into the future.

Crucially though, the Queen, as she has throughout her reign, understands the need to adapt to survive.

So, the Royal household has embraced technological advances as a means to get their message across to the young.

The Queen's Christmas message is available as a podcast, her website is updated regularly and she has her very own Royal Channel on YouTube.

It features a range of videos including those showing her parents' wedding and the blackcurrant harvest on her private Sandringham estate.

Ancient institution

It's this desire to move with the times and demonstrate the value of the internet which explains her presence inside Google's UK headquarters.

This was an encounter between the head of an ancient institution and a company working in cyberspace which was founded by students in a Californian garage 10 years ago.

It's a short hop from Buckingham Palace to the Google building, but at times it must have seemed a world away to the Queen and her husband.

There was no risk, though, of her having withdrawal pangs.

During a demonstration of the Google search engine, pictures of corgis - some of them her own - flashed up on the screen.

She also had the chance to upload another video onto her YouTube Royal Channel. It was footage of a 1968 Buckingham Palace reception for Olympic competitors.

The clipped tones on the commentary were a reminder of how far the world has moved since.

'A little crazy'

Her guide was YouTube's co-founder, Chad Hurley. Afterwards, he marvelled how, in just three years, he'd gone from hanging out in American coffee shops working out how to share clips with friends, to assisting the British Queen.

It was, in his words, "a little crazy".

During their time at Google, Prince Philip had a ball. He was the more animated of the two, fizzing with questions and observations.

When introduced to "Geriatric 1927", an 81-year-old internet granddad who posts regular video diaries, the Duke asked: "You like everybody to know what you are doing?"

And in a company where the dress code is apparently that the staff must wear something, the Queen's husband had this to say to one casually dressed employee: "Have you just come back from jogging?"


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