WITH the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the country’s eyes once again turn to the monarchy, whether by choice or through inability to avoid the non-stop media coverage.

Despite the carefully created images of the royals a BBC documentary from 1969, titled Royal Family, offered a look behind the smoke and mirrors into the everyday life of the Queen, Prince Philip and their children.

It was later prevented from being re-aired, however, with rumours this was on the orders of the monarch herself. It was originally shown on BB1 on June 21, 1969, with an airing on ITV a week later. The combined audience was more than 30 million, with only the 1966 World Cup final surpassing the total viewership that decade.

READ MORE: Republic: Why the Queen needs to be Elizabeth the Last

It was rebroadcast on BBC1 and BBC2 simultaneously that Christmas instead of the Queen’s yearly message, the only time the address has been missed during Elizabeth’s reign. And after being shown again in 1972 and 1977, it has not been seen on the BBC since.

From the beginning, there were doubts. The BBC 2 controller at the time, David Attenborough wrote to the film’s producer Richard Cawston to say: “You’re killing the monarchy with this film you’re making.”

The letter read: “The whole institution depends on mystique and the tribal chief in his hut. If any member of the tribe ever sees inside the hut then the whole system of tribal chiefdom is damaged and the tribe eventually disintegrates.”

The National asked the BBC for comment, but it declined.


The documentary is roughly 90 minutes long and is a fly-on-the wall insight of a year of the life of the Queen and her family.

It features aspects of everyday life in Buckingham Palace, such as a bagpiper playing outside the Queen’s window every morning, the Queen and Prince Philip working in their offices and official audiences being held.

READ MORE: Platinum Jubilee comes amid global push to ditch the British monarchy

The film shows the royals on the road too, with footage from the royal train and Royal Yacht Britannia. There is footage of the family at Balmoral, including of the Queen and Prince Edward buying sweets from a local shop and Prince Philip struggling to barbecue by the side of a loch.

Viewers also had access to the Queen’s public duties as head of state, such as toasting the health of the President of Brazil’s military regime and greeting US President Richard Nixon with Philip and Charles.


In the 1990s it was possible to watch the documentary privately, but only with permission from Buckingham Palace and by paying a £35 fee. But in January 2021 the documentary was leaked to YouTube, once again bringing it to public light.

The National:

The BBC issued a copyright strike to have the video removed, but at the time of writing a version still exists on the internet video platform.

The documentary is also a plot point in streaming giant Netflix’s fictional series based on the royals The Crown, in the fourth episode of season three.