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15 photos from the controversial documentary about the British royal family that aired in 1969 and was never seen again

15 photos from the controversial documentary about the British royal family that aired in 1969 and was never seen again
  • In an effort to appear more welcoming, the British royal family allowed cameras to film their lives for several months in 1969. The result was a documentary called "Royal Family."
  • In the film, which was the focus of an episode in season three of "The Crown," you can see Queen Elizabeth II travel on a private jet, greet President Nixon, and hang out with her children.
  • The documentary was also meant to introduce the public to their future king, Prince Charles, who was attending Cambridge University at the time.
  • Although the premiere was viewed by 30 million people, the movie was never seen in its entirety again after the palace ordered its removal from public view.

Despite living a public life, the British royal family is famously private. What happens behind the palace walls is often left to speculation, tabloids, and gossip.

But for a few months in 1969, the royal family opened the gates and allowed a camera crew to film their lives, like an early reality TV show. The film, titled "Royal Family," aired on June 21, 1969, and the newspapers gave it mixed reviews.

After it aired, the palace relegated the film to the royal archives, meaning it could only be seen again with permission from the Queen. This effectively banned the film from ever being viewed again in its entirety.

For more than 50 years, the film has been kept from public view, but some stills and short clips remain. Last year, the film gained renewed interest after an episode of season three of "The Crown" on Netflix focused on its making.

Keep reading to learn more about the documentary and to get a glimpse into royal life.

In the "Royal Family" documentary, the camera followed the family around for months.

In the "Royal Family" documentary, the camera followed the family around for months.
The family in the documentary. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

After several months of filming, there were 43 hours of footage of the family going about their daily routines. In this scene, the family is viewing a model ship at Sandringham House in Norfolk, England.

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The film even followed the Queen as she traveled around the world.

The film even followed the Queen as she traveled around the world.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Mirrorpix/ Getty

The documentary filmed in several locations, including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, the royal yacht, the royal train, and the royal private jet.

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She was also filmed carrying out official duties, like meeting the United States ambassador.

She was also filmed carrying out official duties, like meeting the United States ambassador.
Queen Elizabeth II and US Ambassador Walter Annenberg. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

Ambassador Walter Annenberg met with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

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Queen Elizabeth II's remarks during a meeting with President Nixon were also recorded.

Queen Elizabeth II's remarks during a meeting with President Nixon were also recorded.
The royal family and president Nixon. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

Upon greeting President Nixon, you can hear the Queen ask, "World problems are so complex, aren't they now?"

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The documentary also showed the family carrying out day-to-day activities, like decorating a Christmas tree.

The documentary also showed the family carrying out day-to-day activities, like decorating a Christmas tree.
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. Bettmann/ Getty

The film was criticized by some for trivializing the royal family. Sir David Attenborough said the "Royal Family" was "killing the monarchy."

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Another scene captured a lighter side of Prince Philip as he enjoyed one of his hobbies: painting.

Another scene captured a lighter side of Prince Philip as he enjoyed one of his hobbies: painting.
Prince Phillip. Keystone/ Getty

Before the film, many didn't see Prince Philip's artistic side. He calls himself an artist and loves to paint landscapes.

The Duke of Edinburgh was a big proponent of the film, as he wanted to bring the royal family into the modern era. By showcasing a different side of the family, he hoped the reinvigorate people's interest in the monarchy.

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The film also featured the royal family's younger generations.

The film also featured the royal family's younger generations.
The royal family. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip have four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, and Prince Andrew.

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Princess Anne and Prince Charles' relationship was also highlighted.

Princess Anne and Prince Charles' relationship was also highlighted.
Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

In this photo, the royal children feed a horse sugar cubes. Princess Anne would go on to become an Olympic equestrian.

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Here, Prince Charles plays a game with his younger brothers.

Here, Prince Charles plays a game with his younger brothers.
Prince Charles, Andrew, and Edward. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

The family is playing bagatelle at Sandringham House in Norfolk, England.

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Even Princess Margaret — the Queen's sister — made appearances in the film with her two children.

Even Princess Margaret — the Queen's sister — made appearances in the film with her two children.
Princess Margaret and her children. Bettmann/ Getty

The princess posed with her two children, Lady Sarah Chatto and Viscount Linley, at Windsor Castle for the documentary.

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But 21-year-old Prince Charles, the future king, was the film's real highlight.

But 21-year-old Prince Charles, the future king, was the film's real highlight.
Prince Charles. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

Ahead of his investiture, the film was meant to introduce Prince Charles to the country as its future king.

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At the time, the prince was enrolled at Trinity College at Cambridge University.

At the time, the prince was enrolled at Trinity College at Cambridge University.
Prince Charles. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

In some scenes, you can see the prince studying in his room at the famous university.

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Here, the heir to the throne is captured placing a record on the turntable in his dorm room.

Here, the heir to the throne is captured placing a record on the turntable in his dorm room.
Prince Charles. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

Less than a month after the premiere, Prince Charles had his investiture at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

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In another scene, Prince Charles chatted with his father, Prince Philip.

In another scene, Prince Charles chatted with his father, Prince Philip.
Prince Charles and Prince Philip. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

It's been speculated that the two princes had a strained relationship.

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But the film received mixed reviews, and the Queen reportedly banned it from airing again.

But the film received mixed reviews, and the Queen reportedly banned it from airing again.
The royal family. Rolls Press/ Popperfoto/ Getty

The documentary set out to prove the royal family was just like any British family. To some extent, the film succeeded.

"It redefined the nation's view of the Queen," Paul Moorhouse, the former curator of the National Portrait Gallery, told the Daily Telegraph. "The audience were amazed to be able to hear the Queen speaking spontaneously, and to see her in a domestic setting."

Others thought the film had the opposite effect. Some said it highlighted the family's stuffy nature, while others felt it took away the "magic" of the royals because they were seen doing day-to-day things like cooking sausages.

In 1970, Buckingham Palace relegated the film to the royal archives, so it was never to be aired again without the permission of the Queen. This effectively banned the film from being shown and, since then, only short clips remain in the public.

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