8 ways Queen Elizabeth modernised the British monarchy: from the first televised coronation to funny videos with Prince Harry and Barack Obama, and even posting to the royal family’s social media
We take a look back at eight ways she transformed British royal life during her reign …
1. She was the first female royal to join the armed services
The queen was the first and only female member of the royal family to enter the armed forces.
The then-titled Princess Elizabeth had to beg her father, King George VI, to let her help out in the military effort during World War II when she was 18.
She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service in England, where she drove military trucks and trained as a mechanic.
The queen was the first female royal to join the armed services as a full-time active member, according to the royal family’s official website.
2. Her royal coronation was the first to be televised
However, the queen also modernised the coronation by allowing it to be televised for the first time in history, according to the royal website. An estimated 27 million people in the UK watched the ceremony, and for most people, it was the first time they had watched a live event on television, the website added.
3. She invented the royal walkabout
The royal family often meet and shake hands with members of the public before official events, which has come to be known as a “royal walkabout”, forever changing the way the royals interact with the public.
However, the practice of royals meeting the public did not start until the queen’s tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1970. The monarch decided to greet the crowd on foot, rather than by driving to her next destination.
4. She allowed cameras to follow her family’s lives
The queen allowed cameras to follow her family’s lives for a documentary that was later banned. She also gave the world a glimpse into her life with the BBC One Royal Family documentary that aired in the UK in 1969.
Along with Prince Philip and their children, the queen allowed cameras to follow their daily lives over 18 months in 1968 and 1969, with the intention of appearing more relatable to a modern audience.
The documentary was shown on TV for the final time in 1972 after which it was banned by the queen, The Independent reported, as it was said to have negatively affected public perception of the royals.
“Some people say that this would open the floodgates, and therefore after that, all the sort of tabloid interest in them [would come after],” royal biographer Hugo Vickers said of the documentary in the ABC special The Story of The Royals, Harper’s Bazaar reported.
5. She had a sense of humour on TV
But the queen wasn’t afraid to get in front of the camera again later in life. During her reign, she appeared on TV a small handful of times and many of these were for humorous segments.
6. She created the royal family website
The queen also modernised the monarchy with the creation of the royal family website. Originally named the British Monarchy website, it was originally created in 1997 and revamped in 2001.
An updated version of the website was unveiled by the queen in 2009, which included Google Maps integration, the royal diary of engagement, as well as integration with the royal family’s YouTube channel, according to a press release from February 2009.
Today, the royal family’s website is used for sharing press releases, announcements and biographies of various members of the royal family.
7. She knows her social media channels
The queen used Twitter to communicate with the British public. The royal family’s official Twitter account was created in 2009 with the handle @BritishMonarchy before being changed to @RoyalFamily.
Over the years, it has been a major platform used by the queen to share important news with the British public. Twitter was also where the family first shared the news of the queen’s death on September 8.
On the official royal family account, she posted two photos of a letter written to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from Charles Babbage, the world’s first computer engineer, displayed at London’s Science Museum.
The queen wrote in the caption it was “fitting” that these letters feature in her first Instagram post as a celebration of how far technology has come in recent years, and she signed the post “Elizabeth R”, her official signature as monarch.
8. She had the first-ever royal engagement over video call
The queen made history with her first-ever royal engagement over video call in June 2020 from Windsor Castle, during the Covid-19 pandemic when the public had to social distance.
The queen and the royal family continued to carry out virtual engagements as well as in-person engagements in 2021 and 2022.
- Queen Elizabeth died at age 96 in September, but the longest-serving monarch in British history transformed royal life during her 70-year reign
- She allowed her family – Prince Philip and her children, including Prince Charles – to be filmed for a BBC documentary, had virtual royal engagements and even invented the royal walkabout