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Queen's site gets a royal pain

Queen Elizabeth II christens a royal Web site but encounters the realities of cyberspace with technical glitches.

Queen Elizabeth II has christened a 150-page royal Web site yesterday, opening a world of crowns, corgis, and castles to millions of Internet surfers--while valiantly trying to counter some decidedly unroyal gossip.

But as of this morning, the Web site was experiencing some technical difficulties. The server was intermittently down, and images on the pages that were available to viewers could not be seen, including photos of the royal family, royal properties, and examples of the family's art collection.

The company that designed the page, COI Publications, could not be reached for comment.

As with everything related to the throne, royal watchers are certain to take interest in who is and is not included on the British monarchy's pages. The page listing the members of today's royal family includes Diana, Princess of Wales, who was divorced last year from Prince Charles, but not Sarah, Duchess of York, who divorced the queen's second son, Andrew.

Not surprisingly, the site makes no mention of Camilla Parker Bowles, who Prince Charles has publicly said is the love of his life.

If anything, the site seems to go out of its way to dispel myths and malicious gossip about the royal family. One page, under the heading "Your questions answered," asks: "Is the Queen the wealthiest woman in the world?"

"No. The Queen's wealth has often been greatly exaggerated," is the sites answer.

The Web page explains that the monarch's properties, jewelry, and other assets are passed on to her successor and should not be considered part of her personal wealth. "The Queen's personal income, as for any other individual, is a private matter," it adds, in a distinctly royal tone.

The queen indicates that the site is designed as a resource for people interested in the British monarchy, not a propaganda machine.

"The royal Web site will, I hope, be an interesting and helpful source of information," she said at the Web site launch at a London school, according to Reuters news service. "I also hope that it will encourage you and others to make full use of the World Wide Web so that we are able to learn more about each other and communicate more easily with each other."

Users can leave their names, addresses, and comments about the site in a special section called the visitors' book.