In a bid to appeal to the internet generation, Britain’s royals launch their own YouTube channel.
The Queen has taken a bold stride into cyberspace by launching her own channel on the video-sharing website YouTube. The Royal Channel launches Sunday as Buckingham Palace seeks to promote Britain’s monarch to a youthful global audience.
While aides were utterly convinced it was the way forward, the 81-year-old Queen – who only recently mastered emailing and had never used a personal computer until two years ago – was not immediately acquainted with the YouTube phenomenon. But after the concept was explained to her by, among others, her granddaughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie – both avid Facebook fans – she personally approved the channel’s go-ahead after viewing its contents.
It is launched with rarely-seen silent newsreel footage of the 1923 wedding of the future George VI to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and historic, albeit grainy, footage from 1917 of Queen Alexandra visiting rose sellers in London’s West End.
Three films made by the late Lord Wakehurst, a former governor of New South Wales and Northern Ireland, which have never before been publicly released, also feature, showing public reaction to the death of George VI, the Queen’s accession and her coronation.
More footage, including recent videos of engagements, investitures and her speeches, will be added regularly with text translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian and Hindi.
Google, the site owner, which bought YouTube last year for £883 million ($1.76 billion), is, naturally, delighted with the publicity. The team who developed her channel, for free, are especially jubilant because she has pipped the U.S. President’s White House channel and because she is their first “royal” client. “There has been a bit of an unofficial race against the White House,” said one source. “And the Queen has won.”
Two years ago the Queen confessed, while conferring an honorary knighthood on American Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, that she had not yet used a computer.
Since then, however, she has willingly embraced the internet and other major technological advances.
She has a mobile phone, and last year was presented with a six gigabyte iPod by Prince William, allegedly another Facebook fan, on which she reportedly stores the “Last Night of the Proms”.
She allowed her traditional Christmas broadcast to be podcast last year and, not only has she acquired a BlackBerry, with its instant access to email on the move, but she has equipped all her senior aides with one too on the advice of her most technically savvy son, the Duke of York.
She has also, recently, learned how to email after years of relying on staff to do it for her.
The Royal Channel launched initially with nine videos at midnight Saturday night. On Christmas Day, at 3 p.m., this year’s Christmas message will be uploaded exactly 50 years to the hour from her very first televised Christmas broadcast.
Rather aptly, her message back in 1957, which is the channel’s main featured video, was on the theme of technology and could almost have been written for this year as she told viewers: “I very much hope that this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and direct.
“That it is possible for some of you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around.”
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “Through the Royal Channel the Queen’s message will reach many more people. The Queen has always tried to keep up with technological advances.” She has personally looked at everything that is on the channel, including all the footage, and has been thoroughly briefed throughout the six months it has taken to develop it.
A YouTube spokesman said: “Over the last years we have seen a number of world leaders and government organizations embracing YouTube as a perfect platform to connect with the public. We are thrilled to see the British Royal Channel on the site, bringing some unique royal video footage to our global community.”
Other world leaders on availing themselves of YouTube’s facilities include the Prime Minister, through the No. 10 Downing Street channel, and the colorful French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
As the Queen follows the determined march of her subjects into this brave new world, spare a thought for her elderly ladies-in-waiting. For decades they have been responsible for the coveted “Stiffies”, the handwritten letters on stiff Buckingham Palace headed notepaper sent out on behalf of the Queen to the thousands who write in. With more and more reliance on the internet, could they soon be relieved of this loyal duty?
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