Queen ‘didn’t ban 1969 documentary Royal Family’ but thought it a ‘triumph’, says biographer

The Queen ‘did not ban the 1969 royal family documentary’ from being re-aired on TV and instead considered it a triumph, a royal biographer has claimed.

The Royal Family took part in the film, which was a combined effort between the BBC and ITV, in a bid to show they were just like their subjects, which quickly became a British phenomenon.

It was watched over two weekends to rave reviews in June 1969, but was last shown three years later after reports Buckingham Palace feared it ‘let the magic out’ about the royals.

However in new book Queen of Our Times, Daily Mail Columnist Robert Hardman argued many in the royal household actually raved about the film, even nicknaming it ‘Carry On Reigning’.

He wrote: ‘Half a century on, some commentators have suggested that the family quickly came to regard it all as a terrible mistake, never to be seen again – a view reinforced by The Crown. Those within the Royal Household remember the complete opposite.’

Hardman has covered the royal family extensively for the Daily Telegraph and, since 2001, writes for the Daily Mail.

The Queen ‘did not ban the 1969 royal family documentary’ and instead considered it a triumph, a royal biographer has claimed

And as opposed to the film being banned from appearing on screen because it had offended the Queen, Hardman said it hadn’t been shown because of copyright issues.

He wrote: ‘From the outset, the film was only ever supposed to have a limited timespan before being locked away.

‘Royal Family was not news footage, like the coronation or a state visit. Rather, it was seen as a personal snapshot of its time.

‘The Queen retained the copyright and did not want the material being squared or adapted for years to come.’

Writing in new book Queen of Our Times, Robert Hardman argued many in the royal household actually raved about the film, even nicknaming it 'Carry On Reigning'

Writing in new book Queen of Our Times, Robert Hardman argued many in the royal household actually raved about the film, even nicknaming it ‘Carry On Reigning’

The idea for the documentary, which aired in June 1969, came from the Palace’s new royal press secretary William Heseltine, rather than the Duke of Edinburgh, as the Netflix hos claims.

Heseltine wanted to encourage public support for a monarchy that was increasingly seen as out-of-touch.

The program was met with praise and proved so popular that it was aired again that same year and once more in 1972.

But hasn’t been broadcast in full since but short clips from the documentary were made available as part of an exhibition for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee 2012.

As opposed to the film being banned from appearing on screen because it had offended the Queen, Hardman said it hadn't been shown because of copyright issues

As opposed to the film being banned from appearing on screen because it had offended the Queen, Hardman said it hadn’t been shown because of copyright issues

However, for the most past the original documentary remains under lock and key with researchers having to pay to view it at BBC HQ, only after getting permission from Buckingham Palace first.

‘You’re killing the monarchy, you know, with this film you’re making,’ the legendary anthropologist and wildlife expert David Attenborough wrote furiously in 1969 to the producer-director of the controversial and ground-breaking television documentary, Royal Family.

‘The whole institution depends on mystic and the tribal chief in his hut,’ continued Attenborough, then BBC 2 controller.

‘If any member of the tribe ever sees inside the hut, then the whole system of the tribal chiefdom is damaged and the tribe eventually disintegrates’, he said.

For the most past the original documentary remains under lock and key with researchers having to pay to view it at BBC HQ, only after getting permission from Buckingham Palace first

For the most past the original documentary remains under lock and key with researchers having to pay to view it at BBC HQ, only after getting permission from Buckingham Palace first

Filmmaker Bryan Forbes said: ‘If you let the genie out of the bottle, you can never put the cork back again. And a lot of people think, with hindsight, that it was a mistake.

Meanwhile Netflix’s The Crown also reinforced the narrative that the Queen had viewed the documentary negatively.

In episode four of series three of The Crown, the royal family is shown taking part in the documentary which sees cameras follow them during their day-to-day lives, to prove how ‘normal’ they are.

And in a scene being compared to the BBC comedy The Royle Family, the senior royals sit down together on a sofa to watch the broadcast.

In The Crown, Ms Colman, center as the Queen, Marion Bailey as the Queen Mother, left, and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, right, sit down to watch the documentary Gogglebox style

In The Crown, Ms Colman, center as the Queen, Marion Bailey as the Queen Mother, left, and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, right, sit down to watch the documentary Gogglebox style

Olivia Colman’s Queen Elizabeth appears to cast an awkward glance as she sits with Princess Margaret, played by Helena Bonham Carter, and Marion Bailey as the Queen Mother.

Helena’s Princess Margaret then quips: ‘This is nothing like a normal evening, if it was a normal evening we’d all be on our own in sad isolation in our individual palaces.

‘It wouldn’t be crowded like this, this is like some kind nightmare Christmas.’

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