Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The "Missing" 1969 Royal Family Documentary is Available (Uploaded Again)

If you're a longtime royal watcher (or you've just been avidly watching The Crown) you'll know about that documentary. In 1969, the Queen and members of the British Royal family opened the doors of Buckingham Palace to Richard Cawston and a team from the BBC for eighteen months. The idea was to offer a more accessible look at the monarchy. It was the brainchild of palace press secretary William Heseltine and television producer John Brabourne (son-in-law of Lord Mountbatten) who believed it would make the family more relevant to the British public. Cawston later said, "I never asked for things which I thought would be in bad taste; therefore, there was never any question of asking for something that would have to be turned down." It attracted over 30 million viewers.

43 hours of footage were meticulously edited down to include the family eating breakfast, watching television, having lunch with President Richard Nixon, Prince Charles playing cello and Princess Anne visiting a gas rig in the North Sea. The final result and reaction was less positive than hoped. Journalist Peregrine Worsthorne summed up the mood by writing, "Initially the public will love seeing the Royal family as not essentially different from anyone else … but in the not-so-long run, familiarity will breed, if not contempt, familiarity." Though initially filmmakers felt the Queen found the final results satisfactory (she expressed she felt it was too long) the monarch reportedly requested it be put away, never to be aired again. Historical consultant Robert Lacey later said, "They realized that if they did something like that too often, they would cheapen themselves, letting the magic seep out." Little snippets have appeared over the years, but is a rarity indeed to see the full film on YouTube. If interested in viewing, I recommend doing so quickly, as it may be removed.

9 comments:

  1. thanks for posting charlotte ive never seen it in full till now

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  2. Gone already...but thx for the headsup.

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  3. it is back online now
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6q4ZP14XIdw&t=122s

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    1. Thank you so much for posting the link. I so much wanted to watch it.

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    2. I finally succumbed to all the chatter I saw about this film and watched it -- for the second time in my case as I was around for the first showing. What a difference 50 years makes! I thought I couldn't remember much but then a couple of passages really stood out, the barbecue and the Christmas tree decorating, though I wonder if that was because those scenes might have been used in promo at the time.

      I was struck by how regimented royal life has to be, I often wonder what hoops have to be gone through to get ready for the regular big formal occasions, never mind all the foreign tours, without emerging flustered. It seems it must depend on having things like lunch delivered to you on the dot of 1pm every day. There was such a telling passage of the Queen receiving umpteen ambassadors while wearing the same dress -- so on the same day presumably -- and managing to look interested and remember different conversation references all the way through. It must be exhausting and need so much prep to be on the ball with all the different names and the goings on in different countries.

      It was fascinating to look back at the fashions back then and a shock to bump into the politics of the day via Harold Wilson and Richard Nixon. I loved seeing old pictures of Windsor where I grew up while much of this was going on. It was like being inside a time capsule for me.

      The first time around I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, there was quite a scandal about the familiarity of the filming. Now I can see clear as day why the film got shunted into a dark cupboard as the image of the Queen is so different from the formal stamp-image she has to maintain such a lot of the time. The formal image is much needed to have credibility for the big state occasions whether banquets or Trooping the Colour, it's what gives them conviction.

      Of course, it is all so different now with the European monarchies taking a much more informal line, and a fly-on-the-wall might not be such a shock, though I don't think even now it would be possible to do one quite this intimate. We get various programmes now, following Charles for a year at the Duchy of Cornwall for instance, which we are more accustomed to, but not involving such personal family exchanges.

      But this showed the Queen is such a vivacious light, and laughing at some of the situations she faces. I didn't remember the monarchy being so unpopular that something like this was thought necessary, but it is very revealing. She was so slim and beautiful, and my very young self had her written off as 'old' at the time - dreadful!! Her '60s sheath dresses are so beautiful and chic. I think present day programmes have learnt to tread a careful line between close-up filming of working life without quite so much of the family goings on.

      So many vignettes to treasure in there, like the Queen's trip to the local Balmoral sweet shop with small Edward, and the views of life while sailing on Britannia -- what a treat to see it all set out for an on-board banquet while moored off Brazil - and the polishing of gold plates and service for a Buck House dinner.

      All-in-all I am the complete hypocrite for seeing why this has been kept under wraps while enjoying every minute of it! Glad I caught it while it is still up.

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  4. I do not understand after watching it why the Queen has made sure it wasn't broadcasted.

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  5. The currently linked version has footage of white haired Queen Elizabeth and a state visit to Washington where she is hosted by President George H. Bush

    This version was not released in 1969

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    1. Thank you very much Fritz. I'll add another link if one becomes available.

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