The Truth About The Royal Family’s Mysterious Documentary

If you’re an avid watcher of The Crown, you’ll remember the infamous documentary that the real-life British royals released in the 1960s, aptly titled The Royal Family. Originally created to help “modernize” the monarchy and make the royals seem less aloof, the film was broadcast nation-wide, History explains. Contrary to its original intent, the film’s reviews were anything but uniform.

Any royal family observer understands the unique challenges that the monarchy faced in the latter half of the 20th century. With hereditary monarchies all but extinct in the West, the Windsors found themselves becoming more obsolete to their people, per History. Raised in a “dutiful,” constrained way, Queen Elizabeth II appeared to many of her subjects as disconnected and uninterested. According to the outlet, it was her cousin Lord Mountbatten’s son-in-law who “suggested” that the family open their doors for the cameras in an effort to show their willingness to change with the times. Furthermore, the documentary aimed to serve as Prince Charles’ introduction to the world before officially being named the Prince of Wales.

Despite reluctance from people inside the palace, including the Queen herself, the cameras started rolling in 1968 inside their home. The film boasted an inside look at the daily life of the Queen’s family over the course of a year, according to History, and shows her demanding schedule, as well as intimately personal moments.

The royal documentary aired in 1969 and never hit the airwaves again

Between private occasions like Christmas at Sandringham and family excursions, the 110-minute royal documentary struck many as “stuffy,” with Insider reporting that the film backfired by showing a family out of touch with the real world and incredibly rigid. Between meeting ambassadors, flying on her private jet, and taking her son, Edward, to the candy store, Queen Elizabeth’s airing of her activities were met with criticism. The outlet notes that even broadcaster Sir David Attenborough said the film was “killing the monarchy” by “trivializing” the institution.

Insider explains that the film was a family effort, showing the immediate royal family along with Princess Margaret, her children, and the Queen’s children. With 30 million viewers across the UK alone, the documentary certainly made a public splash, History notes. While many said that the showcase helped revive people’s interest in the institution, others lamented that it lifted the veil behind the family’s intentional secrecy — opening them up to personal criticism. Following the documentary’s airing, the Queen ordered that the footage be placed into the archives. While clips and small moments are featured in various celebratory commemorations, the film remains largely out of commission, having only been shown one more time in its entirety.

We may never know exactly what prompted its removal from public view, but The Royal Family did signal the establishment’s adoption of new assimilation tactics.

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