I’ve just arrived back at MSE Towers from the Buckingham Palace relaunch of www.royal.gov.uk. While not much of a Royalist generally, I couldn’t resist the chance to glimpse inside and see what it was all about. Though it did involve having to put a suit on, not something I do often, or with relish.
It’s a little scary to go there.
On arrival, I felt a little apprehensive; there’s something quite imposing about walking through the large palace gates, into normally forbidden territory, alone. Yet the policeman checking my ID instantly said “don’t worry, I know who you are anyway” which helped. Then I walked through the car park, and instantly regretted not driving; the chance to park in the red tarmacked quadrangle is something I shouldn’t have missed.
Once checked in, having hung my coat up in the cloakroom and got my badge, it was time to walk up the red carpeted staircase (replete with gold embossed banisters). On the way up the footman gave me a smile, told me he loves the site and had saved a fortune off Bank charges and the credit card shuffle. So while I suspect the Queen isn’t a MoneySaver herself, it’s good to know someone in the Royal household is.
Trying to find someone I knew in the reception.
Once into the pre-reception room, I looked around for any face I recognised. The only one I saw was Spencer Kelly from BBC Click. While I’ve never met him, he’s a friend of a friend, so I decided that was the safest route and went to say hello.
He was talking to a couple of other people, including the founder of parkatmyhouse (linked to in the boost your income guide, and apparently gets a good deal of traffic through from it) and Ian, who is head of digital online for Number 10 (and the man who twitters for it).
Then there was a sudden hush, a little movement, grand doors opened, and we were ushered into the next room and asked to hand invites over. It was only at this point I noticed the slightly short, white haired, immaculate dressed lady in a green conservative outfit and realised it was HM the Queen. We were all ushered through the line with a quick handshake, then into the next, rather opulent and grand reception room, which had a big screen on the far side.
Offically opened with a remote control.
Soon after, Tim Berners Lee – the founder of the web – made a speech about the new site, which includes hi-res 360 degree views of various royal buildings. Then in a most surreal moment, the Queen was handed a remote control to “officially open” the new site, whereupon she, like the rest of us, looked rather bemused, and a little bubble of laughter pumped up.
After that, quails’ eggs, pastries, and sausages were offered round and the 100 or so people there congregated in groups. I stayed in my original four and we were joined by Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent, when we were again introduced to the Queen, this time for a conversation.
Do you use the web, maam?
It’s rather strange working out what you actually have to say. I felt we were collectively tag-teaming to keep a dialogue going, even though our group included three professional broadcasters. I couldn’t resist asking “I hope this isn’t cheeky, but do you ever use the internet?” The answer was, “Not personally no, but the entire palace seems to run on it these days”.
The dialogue then moved on to how young people use the web as a matter of course, and discussing whether two year-olds using a mouse was a bit like under-10s absorbing languages with ease.
After that and a few more brief chats with various people it was time to get my coat and go. As I was walking out of the palace gates, a policeman came up to me and said “I think you should know you’ve got the price sticker on the sole of your shoe and you can see it as you walk.” I was wearing new-ish shoes to go with the suit, then with a knowing nod he added, “so is it a mistake or just to prove you bought them in the sales?”