She might not be on Facebook yet but the Queen yesterday pulled the royal family into the digital age as she launched a revamped website for the monarchy.

Online fans can now take virtual tours of selected palaces and castles, with slide- shows allowing a glimpse of the opulent interiors of the royal residences.

However, a Buckingham Palace source said that the Balmoral Estate in Scotland would be not feature on the site because it is a private residence.

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The Scottish landmark, bought by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1848, is not in the public domain and so is "unlikely" to appear on the roster of viewable royal residences.

A Buckingham Palace official said plans were under way to construct an online tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, adding to the existing panoramas from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

The new website hosts a wealth of obscure details and trivia, including information on the royals' unusual pets and working animals.

A full inventory of the creatures received as gifts by the family includes a Syrian brown bear, a Cameroonian elephant, a couple of Brazilian sloths, some jaguars and a baby crocodile. The more exotic animals have been placed in the care of London Zoo, the site explains.

Guests at yesterday's launch party welcomed the progress made by the royal family, who have generally embraced new technologies to build on their public profile.

The Queen unveiled her own YouTube channel two years ago, including footage of her 21st birthday party, and a number of videos have been added to the latest site.

Among the innovations on the site are a Google map showing forthcoming royal visits around the UK and an archive of downloadable images, speeches and broadcast footage.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely credited as the inventor of the worldwide web, joined Her Majesty at the event and delivered an address to the guests, most of whom were senior figures in Britain's online community.

"The website celebrates a really important part of the British cultural tradition - the monarchy - and is a great resource for the people within Britain, so it deepens that culture.

"At the same time it's there for anybody to see it from other countries, where they really don't understand how the monarchy works - what it does do, what it doesn't do - so now they can go and look."

Speaking after the ceremony, he stressed the importance of the internet as a representation of "humanity connected", adding: "Twenty years ago I was trying to persuade people the worldwide web would be a good idea, and they were telling me it would be too complicated or it wouldn't work. What we just tried to do was to make sure that it would itself be like a white piece of paper - the web really shouldn't try to constrain what you do."

Historian Dr David Starkey said that royalty had a long tradition of using technology to promote themselves and their dominions to the world.

Speaking about events before 1603's Union of the Crowns, he said: "Henry VII and Henry VIII were rather good with printing - a media revolution at least as important as the web. The English monarchy was one of the first to understand it, to use it, to develop material for it, to have a royal printer - which is the same as a royal website.

"I think that in every age the monarchy has seized control of events, it has also seized control of technology."

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