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British Royals

Shock after 1969 documentary ‘Royal Family’ reappears – 52 years after The Queen banned the film from the public


The 1969 documentary ‘Royal Family’ which was deemed to be so intrusive The Queen banned it from public consumption, has miraculously reappeared 52 years after broadcast.

The full 90 minute documentary was uploaded to a YouTube account and was swiftly removed, but not before hundreds of royal fans watched the programme.

For over 50 years, the documentary has been locked away at Her Majesty’s command in the BBC vaults. It is now likely to have been downloaded many times over, meaning the footage is no longer one of television’s great secrets.

It is unknown how the footage made its way online, with Buckingham Palace and the BBC refusing to release the tapes despite numerous requests.

In the footage, which Royal Central has viewed in full, extraordinary access is granted to The Queen and her family as they undertake their duties.

Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh can be seen meeting with one of their Private Secretaries on board the Royal Train. The camera crew also follow The Queen and Prince Philip on an official visit to Chile in 1968 – their first official visit to the country.

At the time of broadcast, the film was considered to be a sensational documentary. At the time it was considered intrusive, but now it probably wouldn’t be regarded so, by today’s standards. For example, at the time of broadcast, people were horrified to find out that The Queen stored food in Tupperware containers (something that would be regarded now as a totally legitimate attempt to make the best use of food, horrified staunch conservatives at the time).

But this documentary, which was watched by a third of the UK’s population at the time of its broadcast, had many traditionalists and courtiers up in arms.

The premise of the documentary was for the public to get an idea of what life in the modern royal court of 1969 was like. Cameras followed the Royal Family around for a whole year. 1969 happened to be the year that Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales also, this wasn’t a coincidence; cameras were also following the Royal Family’s preparations for the investiture.

Camera crews (in a joint project between the BBC and ITV) accompanied The Queen on tours of Chile and Brazil, and Prince Charles to Malta and Cambridge. They also shot more than 40 hours of film in Sandringham, Balmoral, Buckingham Palace, Windsor and Holyrood, as well as on the Royal Yacht, the Royal Train and aircraft of the Queens Flight.

The Queen was filmed performing official duties such as receiving the new American ambassador and at her regular meeting with Prime Minister Harold Wilson. She was also shown holidaying at Sandringham and enjoying Christmas with her family. Producer Richard Cawston said “until we made this film, I really believe that none of them had ever spoken into a microphone anything which had not been carefully prepared.”

Princess Anne notoriously hated the documentary, later saying, “I never liked the idea of Royal Family, I thought it was a rotten idea. The attention which had been brought upon one ever since one was a child… you just didn’t need any more.”