Queen ensured traditions kept pace with technology

The monarch had her own mobile phone and iPods, and even occasionally sent her own tweets.
The monarch had her own mobile phone and iPods, and even occasionally sent her own tweets. The monarch had her own mobile phone and iPods, and even occasionally sent her own tweets.

The Queen’s life was steeped in tradition but she kept up with the vast technological advances that occurred during her reign.

She saw the advent of popular colour television, mobile phones, the internet and social media.

In her first televised Christmas broadcast in 1957, the Queen spoke of the “speed at which things change around us”.

The grainy black and white picture of a young Elizabeth, dressed in a shimmering gown with a string of pearls around her neck, epitomised a significant step for the royal family.

It was one of the first bold strides taken by the monarch to ensure she was up to date with her ever-changing nation.

The Queen on TV
The Queen on TV The Queen’s first televised Christmas broadcast in 1957 (PA)

“Twenty-five years ago, my grandfather broadcast the first of these Christmas messages. Today is another landmark because television has made it possible for many of you to see me in your homes,” she said.

“That it is possible for you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us.”

Under her command, television cameras were allowed inside Westminster Abbey for the first time to film her coronation – although she had initial reservations.

Coronation Day
Coronation Day The view seen by television viewers immediately after the Archbishop of Canterbury placed the crown on the Queen’s head during the coronation (PA)

More than half a million extra television sets were sold in the weeks running up to the event in 1953.

Five years later, the Queen made the first trunk call in the United Kingdom.

Speaking from Bristol, she called the Lord Provost of Edinburgh 300 miles away.

The first trunk call
The first trunk call The Queen speaks on a telephone at the Bristol exchange making Britain’s first subscriber trunk dialled telephone call in 1958 (PA)

“In time, the whole of the United Kingdom will enjoy the advantages of this new service which the Post Office has introduced,” she told him before ringing off.

The call lasted two minutes, five seconds and cost 10d (4p).

When email technology was in its infancy, the Queen became the first monarch to send one of the electronic messages in 1976 during a visit to an Army base.

At International Computers Ltd
At International Computers Ltd The Queen walking through the main computer hall of International Computers Ltd (Tony Harris/PA)

But the Queen continued to stick with traditional methods of communication such as letters and telegrams.

Her own website, which began as, was set up in 1997 during a visit to Kingsbury High School in Brent, north west London.

However, it was reported that the Queen took some time to acquaint herself with certain devices.

Launch of the Royal Website
Launch of the Royal Website The Queen visited Kingsbury High School, Brent, to launch the royal website in 1997 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

In 2005, she is said to have told Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, that she had not yet used a computer.

She later ensured that her household had embraced the internet and other major advances, so that the monarchy remained at the forefront of the technological sphere.

The Queen was said to have at one stage owned a BlackBerry, so she could check her emails on the move.

It was claimed that she purchased one of the devices on the advice of her most technically savvy son, the Duke of York.

The Queen looking at a Blackberry
The Queen looking at a Blackberry The Queen is shown a BlackBerry she tours the Research in Motion factory in Canada in 2010 (John Stillwell/PA)

Her grandchildren were purportedly extremely helpful with keeping her up to date with the latest technological trends.

The concept of video-sharing website YouTube was explained to her by Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie before she launched her own channel on the site in 2007 to promote the British monarchy.

In 2006, her annual Christmas address was also sent as a podcast for the first time.

She personally uploaded a video on to YouTube during a visit to the Google offices in London in 2008.

At Google
At Google The Queen visits Google’s British headquarters (Colin Davey/Daily Mail/PA)

To mark the visit, the search engine changed its logo for the day to feature a profile of the monarch and a crown.

The wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was streamed live on the site.

The day after the royal nuptials, the Royal YouTube channel was the most-viewed channel on YouTube.

In 2009, the Queen sent an email to 23 young people from across the world who wrote blogs about their lives and their experiences of the Commonwealth – which was celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The Queen strode into the social media sphere and allowed aides to create a Facebook page and Twitter and Flickr accounts, and then an Instagram account.

She also owned a number of iPods – one reportedly given to her as a gift by then US president Barack Obama and another from her grandson William – which were said to contain classical music, including the Last Night Of The Proms.

But the impact of changing technology was not always welcomed by the monarch.

She reportedly said she found it strange to be greeted by a sea of mobiles when out on engagements as members of the public attempted to take her picture on their camera phones.

A selfie encounter in Belfast
A selfie encounter in Belfast A teenager tries to take a selfie in front of the Queen during a walkabout around St George’s Market in Belfast (Peter Macdiarmid/PA)

US ambassador Matthew Barzun revealed that the monarch essentially told him she missed eye contact.

The Queen also voiced her concerns that children were being attracted to computer games and e-books rather than reading traditional paper books as she presented author Joanne Harris with an MBE for services to literature.

Mrs Harris said: “She asked me what I thought about e-books and computer games and said that she feared that children were playing with those more than they were reading books.”

In October 2014, the Queen passed a new technological milestone when she sent her first tweet – to mark the opening of a new Science Museum gallery.

Touching a tablet screen, the monarch posted the pre-typed message on the social networking service via the official @BritishMonarchy Twitter account.

It read: “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting.

“Elizabeth R.”

The Queen's first tweet
The Queen's first tweet The Queen sends her first royal tweet to declare the opening of the new Information Age Galleries at the Science Museum in London (Chris Jackson/PA)

The message was retweeted more than 40,000 times.

But, in keeping with one of the downsides of the internet, it also attracted instant abuse from Twitter trolls.

“We saw some tweets with profanity but that is just the nature of the format,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman acknowledged frankly at the time.

The monarch also tweeted her thanks for all the “digital messages of goodwill” she received to mark her official 90th birthday in 2016 – again signing off as Elizabeth R.

In 2019, the Queen posted an image on Instagram for the first time as she viewed a new Science Museum exhibition called Top Secret.

Touching an iPad screen, she shared photos on the official royal family account of a letter from 19th century inventor and mathematician Charles Babbage to Prince Albert.

The Queen’s message told how she had “the pleasure of learning about children’s computer coding initiatives” during her visit to the Science Museum which “has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation of inventors”.

In 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Queen embraced a new way of working as the royal family switched to video calls to carry out their engagements in lockdown.

The monarch, then 94, took part in her first official video conference call as part of her public duties on June 4 of that year, speaking to carers with the Princess Royal.

The Queen also carried out numerous virtual visits during the Covid-19 crisis.

She remarked on a video call to celebrate KPMG’s 150th anniversary: “Well thank goodness for technology, so one can still do this.”

For the first time, she held her Privy Council meetings by video link, received the oath of allegiance from a newly appointed Archbishop online and carried out virtual diplomatic audiences for foreign ambassadors.

Meanwhile, as the Windsors stayed apart during lockdown, the Queen kept in touch with her royal relatives using Zoom and FaceTime.

She even received a video call from her great-grandson Archie Mountbatten-Windsor with his parents the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in the US on her 94th birthday in April 2020.

In December 2020, the Queen’s Christmas message was made available in full through Alexa smart devices for the first time.