Why has The Queen banned the 'Royal Family' TV documentary since 1969?

28 August 2018, 11:36 | Updated: 28 August 2018, 15:23

Royal Family documentary
Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Back in 1969, the Royal Family allowed unprecedented access behind the scenes at Buckingham Palace for a one-off documentary.

However, it was so unprecedented, that it has never been shown since. And there no known copies of the full programme anywhere.

The two-hour documentary titled The Royal Family aired on the BBC, and was watched by 40 million people around the world at the time.

The show saw the Queen having breakfast, having small-talk with President Nixon, sharing anecdotes about Queen Victoria and more.

The Queen has never allowed it to be shown since, but why?

In a recent ABC documentary, The Story Of The Royals, experts revealed why she prefers to keep the footage private.

Royal Family documentary
Picture: Getty

Robert Lacey, historical consultant on Netflix drama The Crown, explained: "They realised that if they did something like that too often, they would cheapen themselves, letting the magic seep out."

"Some people say that this would open the floodgates, and therefore after that all the sort of tabloid interest in them [would come after]," royal biographer Hugo Vickers added. "They would want to know more, and more, and more."

For a 2011 exhibition, The Queen: Art And Image, at the National Portrait ­Gallery, Buckingham Palace allowed organisers to use a 90-­second clip from the film. The rest of the film and 38 hours of unused footage remains at the Royal Archives at Windsor.

Prince Charles, Andrew and Edward in 1969
Prince Charles, Andrew and Edward in 1969. Picture: Getty

The documentary came about in 1968, when Lord Mountbatten’s son-in-law, film producer Lord Brabourne, felt the Royal Family would see their public image improve if they were seen as being more modern and informal.

The Queen's Australian press secretary William Heseltine.Brabourne agreed, and suggested to Prince Philip that a documentary should be made about their private life. Richard Cawston, then head of the BBC’s documentary department, was hired to direct the film.

The final version was a 105-minute colour ­documentary, and aired on June 21, 1969, just before the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle.