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Four months ago, the Queen invested £100,000 in a dot.com firm called getmapping.com.

Next month, her three per cent stake will magically transform to £1.2 million when the company floats.

getmapping.com is a geographic information Web overlay play - it is producing an aerial map of Britain in digitised form. And it needs to raise £7 million to complete the task.

Why that makes it worth £40 million, is anyone's guess.

In an touching display of forelock-tugging, getmapping has dedicated its website to the Queen, "with her permission", the Sunday Express says. (We checked out the site - still in "soft launch" mode - and saw no Royalist paean, so we'll have to take the newspaper's word for this.)

getmapping certainly has a lot to be thankful for: it is very unusual for the Queen's specific equity investments to filter into the public domain.

Her stock portfolio, estimated by The Sunday Times Rich List 2000 at more than £100 million, lies hidden mostly behind anonymous Bank of England nominee accounts.

So why should the Royal Household go public on its interest in footling business such as getmapping.com? Very curious indeed.

Perhaps the presence of Sir Robert Fellowes, the Queen's former private secretary, on the getmapping board has something to do with this. ®

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