Banned ‘Royal Family’ Documentary Resurfaces For The First Time In Nearly 50 Years

Prince Charles making salad dressing. Queen Elizabeth calling a U.S. ambassador a “gorilla.” A staff member serving carrots to a horse on a white napkin.

A rare documentary with unprecedented access to the British royal family resurfaced this week before being taken down again, sending some royal watchers into an absolute frenzy.

The BBC documentary, aptly called “Royal Family,” filmed the royals’ life from 1968 to 1969. It aired on June 21, 1969, and was viewed by over 350 million people. It was reportedly locked away in royal archives in 1970, requiring the approval of the queen in order to be shown again.

The documentary was recently covered in Season 3 of the Netflix series “The Crown,” where it drummed up interest among fans yet again.

Audiences could briefly watch the hour-and-a-half-long film in its entirety, thanks to a YouTube account called Philip Strangeways that uploaded the video on Jan. 15. The background photo of Strangeways’ YouTube account referred to something called “H.M. Government Public Service Films,” which doesn’t appear to be an actual organization.

A look at a few of the other videos Philip Strangeways had uploaded to his account. 
A look at a few of the other videos Philip Strangeways had uploaded to his account./
As of Wednesday, Philip Strangeways had 31 subscribers. 
As of Wednesday, Philip Strangeways had 31 subscribers./

Seth B. Leonard, a writer and editor at European Royal History Journal, posted a tweet alerting people to the video that quickly circulated on Twitter.

But the joy proved short lived, as the video was taken down again on Thursday, “due to a copyright claim by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).” As of HuffPost’s last viewing this morning, it has nearly 10,000 views. 

Prior to the video being taken down, Buckingham Palace directed a HuffPost request for comment to the BBC. The BBC had no comment on the video. 

The timing of the documentary resurfacing is certainly interesting, as the humanizing video resurfaced just around the time People magazine published a cover story Wednesday on what Queen Elizabeth is “really like behind palace walls.”

Interested parties can still watch a YouTube clip of select parts of the documentary here:

In the above video, Princess Anne opens up about why she thought the documentary was a bad idea for the family.

“I don’t quite know how to put this, but I never liked the idea of the royal family film. I always thought it was a rotten idea,” the royal says. “The attention that had been brought on one ever since one was a child, you just didn’t want any more. And the last thing you needed was greater access. I don’t remember enjoying any part of that.”

William Heseltine, a royal press secretary who claimed credit for coming up with the idea of the documentary at the time, told Town & Country in 2019 that he was “delighted” with the documentary when it came out.

“It had very few critics at the time; one or two stuffy lord lieutenants in England and one or two [TV] critics, people like Bernard Levin [the late, famously controversial journalist who wrote for The Times and The Sunday Times] who thought it was an awful mistake,” he said. “But on the whole, I think it was really a wonderful thing and very much in their [the royal family’s] interests.”

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