Queen’s Legacy Includes Early Embrace of Email, Beatles


Queen Elizabeth provided more than a measure of stability to her nation during her 70-year reign. She was a constant as ties among UK nations and between Britain and Europe weakened, per a Washington Post editorial. Her endless stoicism could grate on her subjects, as after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. But most of the time, per NBC News, the country appreciated being able to count on her calm and cheerfulness. Affection for her was so universal that flags were lowered to half-staff around the world Thursday, per the BBC, including at EU headquarters in Belgium. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed sympathy. “For many decades, Elizabeth II rightfully enjoyed the love and respect of her subjects, as well as authority on the world stage,” he said. Elizabeth’s reign paralleled:

  • The Commonwealth: The successor to the British Empire, which crumbled after she came to the throne, expanded to include 53 nations. Though it was formed before she took the throne, Elizabeth considered the success of the commonwealth one of her greatest achievements, per ABC Australia—”one of the true unifying bonds in this torn world.”
  • The internet: Elizabeth had an email account since 1976. The royal family’s first website went live in 1997, per Wired, before many newspapers were online. She kicked off her family’s YouTube channel in 2007 with a rare video of her 1957 Christmas broadcast, the first one televised. The queen first tweeted in 2014, used an iPad, and embraced Zoom meetings as her last years, after the pandemic hit. “I think the queen has been extremely savvy on the internet,” said YouTuber Sadie Quinlan, a fan. “I think she knows what’s going on, and I know she knows it’s quite wild, and life continues on the internet more so than real life.”
  • Rock ‘n’ roll: When Elizabeth became queen, American stars Chuck Berry and Little Richard were breaking ground. Then the power shifted to British acts. She wasn’t necessarily a fan, but she saw the economic and cultural potential, per Yahoo Entertainment. Three months before they played the Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles performed on the televised Queen’s Royal Variety Performance. The royals laughed along with John Lennon’s now-famous joke: “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. The rest of you, just rattle your jewelry.” Two years later, the queen made the lads Members of the Order of the British Empire, an unusual honor for entertainers in that era.
  • Changing gender roles: Not everyone the York Dispatch interviewed Thursday in York County shops felt a great bond with Elizabeth. One owner said many customers “have great love and respect for the queen,” but others came to England from countries hurt by British imperialist policies. Still, Cindy Washburn said, “As a woman, I have to admire her dealing with a lot of men and a lot of things that most women of her era didn’t get the opportunity to do.”

(Read more Queen Elizabeth II stories.)