the Queen's message - by e-mail

The Queen has taken the highly unusual step, for her, of sending a message via e-mail.

It has gone to 23 young people from across the world, who've written blogs about their lives and their experiences of the Commonwealth - which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Back in 1976, the Queen was a trendsetter. She became the first monarch to send an e-mail during a visit to an army base. She was demonstrating a technology in its infancy.

In the intervening years, as more and more of us discovered the internet's potential, the Queen stuck with tried and tested methods of communication - letters, telegrams and telemessages.

Now, in the same month she received an iPod from President Obama, the Queen has once again embraced the internet.

The reasons are obvious. The theme of the Commonwealth's anniversary celebrations is "serving a new generation".

The Queen's electronic message has gone out to young, internet-savvy people, some of whom live in remote locations.

All the recipients, from countries such as Canada, Papua New Guinea and Jamaica, have posted pictures and written personal accounts on the royal website. They provide a snapshot of lives in a variety of Commonwealth countries.

Twenty-two-year-old Ashton Usher paints an attractive picture of life for a young man in Belize. His account of a typical day includes a football match with friends, a lunch of mango and coconut on a beach by the Caribbean Sea and fishing.

According to Ashton, the Commonwealth means Belize, an independent nation, can show the world it is not alone.

'Family of nations'

For Katrina Barber, the Queen is the "boss" of the Commonwealth. The 12-year-old, who lives on a remote cattle station 200km (125 miles) from Alice Springs, wants her head of state to visit, so she can ask her what it's like to swap a palace for the Australian bush.

Katrina, who has to log on to a computer to take part in her school lessons via a webcam, learnt to drive when she was seven and is keen to do bull riding.

She writes: "I want to marry a local bloke and live here when I grow up because I love the bush so much."

The reward for these online endeavours - for Ashton, Katrina and the 21 other young Commonwealth citizens - is an e-mail from Buckingham Palace. It is headlined, "A Message from Her Majesty the Queen" and it is signed, "Elizabeth R".

The Queen writes that she has read their accounts with interest. She goes on: "Today, we celebrate the values and aspirations of the Commonwealth which have sustained our family of nations throughout its history and which I hope will equally inspire generations to come."

The content of the message is unremarkable. Its method of delivery is unique.

The e-mail address used will pretty quickly disappear into the ether. Was it, one wonders,

Whatever it was, inboxes around the globe aren't about to be inundated with missives from the Queen. At 83, she won't be making a habit of it.

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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