This Documentary About the Royal Family Hasn't Been Seen Since 1969
One of the most intimate looks ever at the British royal family was shown to the public in the 1960s—but has been reportedly sitting in a vault ever since. It’s a documentary called Royal Family, and it hasn’t been seen in full for decades.
Richard Cawston’s BBC documentary team followed the royal family for 18 months as they went about their days. Their activities ranged from Prince Philip grilling sausages at Balmoral to the Queen making small talk with U.S. President Richard Nixon. On ABC’s new special, The Story of the Royals, experts say the documentary kicked off the intense scrutiny the royals now receive from the public and the press.
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II on a private jet in 1969 while filming Royal Family.
“I think the monarchy, in a very interesting way in the 1960s, tried to get out ahead of this notion they were out of tough or they were unapproachable,” Laura Mayhall, co-editor of Women’s Suffrage in the British Empire, said in the special. “It’s really a vehicle for us to see a little bit behind the scenes, so we can understand the monarchy as people like us.”
And when the Queen watched it, she enjoyed the finished product—with some reservations. “We were all a little bit nervous of showing it to the Queen because we had no idea what she would make of it,” Michael Bradsell, the film’s editor, told the Smithsonian channel in a separate special last year. “She was a little critical of the film in the sense she thought it was too long, but Dick Cawston, the director, persuaded her that two hours was not a minute too long.”
It was originally broadcast on June 21, 1969, to rave reviews and major audiences in the U.S. and in the U.K.
The documentary was considered a public relations success. But even though it was a huge achievement, the Queen reportedly ordered it to be put away in a vault—and it has never been seen in its entirety since then.
In retrospect, the reason why makes sense. It was the first time the
“They realized that if they did something like that too often, they would cheapen themselves, letting the magic seep out,” Robert Lacey, historical consultant on The Crown, said in the ABC special.
Princess Margaret with her children during the filming of Royal Family.
“Some people say that this would open the floodgates, and therefore after
In 2011, 90 seconds of the film
Part 2 of ABC’s The Story of the Royals,
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.