Buckingham Palace officials’ decision to sign up for Facebook looked like a no-brainer. “If you look at the royal forays into technology and social media, we were already pretty much everywhere,” says a spokesman for Britain’s royal family. “Facebook was really the last area we didn’t have a presence.” And so, this morning, on the stroke of 8:00 Greenwich Mean Time, the British Monarchy’s Facebook page was launched. By 8:15 GMT the Palace web team of two, also tasked with administering the royals’ main website, Twitter and Flickr accounts, was scrambling to delete comments that might be expected to give a high-born lady the vapors.
The Queen, of course, is made of stern stuff, and would rise above any such abuse that did reach her—in the unlikely event she could decipher it. It’s fair to say that a multitude of sniggeringly suggestive remarks about her grandsons, removed from the page in the first hours after it went live, were not written in the Queen’s English.
Onslaughts from republicans, in the U.K. and the wider Commonwealth, have, for now, escaped the royal censors. “Let’s move into the 21st century and ditch this monarchy nonsense,” writes one contributor. Protests another: “The monarchy is an outdated archaic ridiculoius [sic] institution. Being born into privilege is just wrong. At least politicians can be voted out if they become unpopular, unlike it seems the monarchy.” A number of republicans explain that they have signed up as followers of the page—“liked” it, in Facebook’s terms—in order to join the debate, prompting this obvious question from Facebook user Becky Sharman: “Why ‘like’ the monarchy if you clearly don’t?”
Despite the kerfuffle there’s good news for Her Majesty: the page has already collected more than 65,000 followers, many of them effusive in their praise for the Windsor brand. “The Queen and Royal Family are all wonderful and they work everyday & probably meet some of the most boring people BUT they make them feel special and everyone needs that….I’m really happy that the Queen is on Facebook,” comments one enthusiast. An Italian Facebook user pleads to exchange the Italian government lock, stock and Berlusconi for Britain’s “magnificent monarchy”. Another fan rhapsodizes: “I do believe I would have some difficulty keeping up with Her Majesty, and I’m less than half her age. You rock, Queenie! (In a perfectly dignified way, of course.)”
Perfect dignity is the watchword of the royals’ Facebook venture. Anyone hoping for intimate, interactive contact with the family will come away disappointed by the sedate court circulars detailing royal engagements; photo albums of public, but not private, events; and videos already available on the royal YouTube channel. Still, those aiming to get close and personal with royalty will appreciate a new Facebook app specially developed to enable users to find out about any royal visits to their area.
That’s likely to prove a more reliable source than other options on Facebook, not least the phalanxes of “William Waleses” and “Prince Harrys”. Younger royals at various times have been reported to inhabit Facebook under pseudonyms (and last year British tabloid newspapers picked up on Harry’s split from then girlfriend Chelsy Davy after she changed her relationship status to “not in one”), but it’s best to assume that anyone identifying him- or herself as a Windsor probably isn’t the real deal. “It’s difficult [on Facebook] to tell if you’re talking to William Wales or someone who professes to be William Wales,” says the Buckingham Palace spokesman.
The site is already providing unparalleled personal insights however: into the sorts of people who haunt the online world posting incontinently. God Save the Queen—and the rest of us.