Technology in the Elizabethan Age
This weekend, as much of the country prepares to live-stream, upload, share on social media and liberally selfie its way through the celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee, it’s astonishing to contemplate just how many advances have been made in technology over the past seventy years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. And for a 1000-year-old institution, steeped in tradition and mystique, being a sovereign in the era of fast-paced technology may seem incongruous. Or is it? As we look back through the past seventy years, it’s indeed surprising to note just to what extent an entity emblematic of the past has quietly embraced the workings of the future.
It was, after all, a reign that began with the world’s first televised coronation in 1952. At the time, a move such as this was unprecedented. But it set the tone for the decades to come. Barely five years later, in 1957, the Queen delivered her first televised Christmas broadcast, in which she noted “the speed at which things change around us”.
Telecommunications were gaining pace at this time, too. And once again, it was the Queen who would make the first ever trunk call in the United Kingdom. In 1958, in a conversation lasting two minutes, five seconds, she called from Bristol and spoke to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh.
In 1976, during the early years of email technology, the Queen became the first monarch to send an electronic message from an army base in the UK. The subject header was “A Message from Her Majesty the Queen” and the message was signed “Elizabeth R”, a sign-off the Queen has used ever since. History does not relate the details of the recipient, but one can only hope it didn’t end up in a dreaded junk folder.
By 1997, the Queen had her own website – www.royal.gov.uk which was launched during a visit to a school in north west London. By now, the Queen had well and truly entered the Information Age, and she personally saw to it that her household embraced the internet in all its forms. She herself is reputed to have owned a Blackberry in the past, to keep abreast of events while on the move.
By 2006, the Queen’s Christmas address was sent as a podcast for the first time, and in 2008, she personally uploaded a video onto YouTube during a visit to the Google offices in London. A Facebook page and a Flickr account followed soon after, and in 2014 the Queen sent her first tweet to mark the opening of a new Science Museum Gallery. By 2019, HM had embraced Instagram with her first post and in 2021, she had surpassed 10 million followers.
During the pandemic, accounts of the Queen conducting meetings on Zoom have become commonplace. Yet it is a fitting reminder that as a great-grandmother well into her 90s, this is no mean feat. And so, as we head towards a flag-festooned weekend, we can all pay tribute to the extraordinary advances of technology in this Elizabethan Age, and to the sovereign who continues to embrace them.