What would Queen Victoria say if she was on Twitter?
How would it be if Queen Victoria tweeted? DAVID CLENSY meets the Bristol history enthusiast who is reliving Victoria's life via the social media network.
SHE probably would not have been amused, but a Bristol history buff is tweeting Queen Victoria's life in real-time, using her personal diaries. It's a project that 22-year-old Ashley Coates, of Leigh Woods, could be working on for more than 60 years.
Ashley, who recently graduated with a history degree from the University of London, is keen to give followers the opportunity to get to know the late Queen a little more personally.
"She kept the most incredibly extensive diaries throughout her life," explains Ashley.
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"They're not the sort of thing that anyone would ever want to sit and read from cover to cover – they're far too detailed.
"That's how I had the idea of tweeting excerpts – to give people a flavour of the sorts of things she did in her day-to-day life.
"She would sometimes make entries into her diary two or three times in a single day, and she would prefix each entry with the time at which she was writing – which made me think it was almost like she was tweeting, although of course the diaries were not designed to be published.
"She was a 19-year-old who had just ascended the throne, and she used the diaries almost like a student taking notes in a lecture – she was keen to understand the affairs of state, and many of her diary entries refer to conversations she has had that day with her ministers.
"I didn't want to just tweet the occasional excerpt out of context," Ashley adds.
"I had the idea of tweeting her diaries in real-time – 174 years after she had written them.
"Unfortunately I realised I had just missed her coronation, but I didn't want to wait another year in order to be able to include her coronation, so I started just a few weeks into her reign."
It's not the first off-the-wall project that would-be journalist Ashley has taken on – last year he drove an ambulance to Mongolia in order to raise money for St John Ambulance.
"That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it was very hard work," the former Clifton College pupil says.
"When I came back I wanted to find a quieter project, and that's when I had the idea of taking on the persona of Queen Victoria on Twitter.
"I think Twitter is increasingly going to be at the heart of journalists' daily lives over the coming years, so I thought it would be interesting to take on a Twitter-based project while I'm looking for a way into the profession, and I married that with my background studying history."
Ashley's Queen Victoria account, which currently has around 250 followers, won't be the first quirky tweeter – here in Bristol alone the Great George Bell in the Wills' Memorial Tower has its own Twitter account with 500 followers, while the Clifton Suspension Bridge apparently tweets its latest musings as it watches over the Avon Gorge to almost 1,000 followers.
Elsewhere a mock account purporting to be our current Queen has no fewer than 934,000 followers.
"But my account is going to be different," Ashley says. "It's not just about me parodying Queen Victoria – these are genuinely her words, written as she wrote them 174 years ago.
"The only comparable Twitter projects are real-time diary tweets for a farmer in the 1870s and a World War II pilot, based on his letters home – there is also an account that is tweeting news from World War II in real-time over a full six-year period."
But Ashley's project could potentially be on an even bigger scale.
"As she was still keeping a diary right up until her death in 1901, this could potentially be a project that just keeps on going for the next 60 years," he laughs.
"If I'm going to carry on that long-term, I may need a bit of help," he laughs.
"It currently takes me a couple of hours of tweeting each week, although I do use software that tweets the messages for me at the right time in terms of when she was writing them.
"It's not always convenient to stop what you're doing to become Queen Victoria for a few minutes.
"But for me it's a really fascinating thing to be doing, and a great way to learn more about who Queen Victoria really was, what she thought and how she viewed the world."
To follow Ashley's Queen Victoria tweets, find them at @QueenVicTweets.
Some tweets from Queen Victoria
@QueenVicTweets: Lady Normanby got a damp bed at Birmingham, which gave her a violent seizure of cramps.
@QueenVicTweets: Spoke of the heat of the weather; my uncertainty as to whether I should go out.
@QueenVicTweets: Lord M said it was bad to lose the habit of walking: “I don't know why you shouldn't like it; for you are fond of standing and moving about”
@QueenVicTweets: I said merely because it bored me, and I thought it tiresome; and that I hated walking for walking's sake.
@QueenVicTweets: Stayed up till ½ p.11.
@QueenVicTweets: Spoke about Canada, and Uncle said that the Boundary Question would give us trouble...
@QueenVicTweets: Spoke of Lord Belfast's ugliness; and Lord M. said: “She always says, ‘poor Bel is very ugly’.”
@QueenVicTweets: Spoke of Napoleon's wars, “That's the war”, said Lord Melbourne “in which it is said the Allies made 100 mistakes, and Napoleon 101.”
@QueenVicTweets: Spoke of poverty in Ireland; Uncle said they were so fond of murdering people, and shooting at windows, which they did in no other country.
@QueenVicTweets: Champagne making me giddy.