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How to Watch BBC's Royal Family Documentary of 1969

Royal Family Lunch
Hulton ArchiveGetty Images

If you haven't heard about the infamous Royal Family documentary of 1969, the filming of which is featured in an episode of The Crown season 3, it's for a reason. The royal family has done everything they can to contain the 110-minute documentary showcasing a day in the life of the immediate royal family members, which aired on BBC (and later ITV) in June 1969 and attracted 30 million viewers.

The documentary aimed to present a more relatable, approachable side of the family to the public. Turns out, it got a bit too personal, causing controversy throughout the U.K. According to The Telegraph, critics claimed that the film "destroyed the mystique of the royals by showing them to be ordinary people, including scenes of the Duke of Edinburgh frying sausages at a Balmoral barbecue." (I don't know about you, but I'm very into watching Prince Philip hit up the BBQ.) There's even a candid conversation shown between the Queen and then-U.S. President Richard Nixon.

Here are some clips from the doc:

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth Aboard Airplane
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II on a private jet.
BettmannGetty Images
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip Looking at Christmas Tree
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II putting up Christmas decorations.
BettmannGetty Images
Prince Charles
Prince Charles and television host David Frost.
Fox PhotosGetty Images

Princess Margaret and Children Sitting on Love Seat
Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister, with her two children.
BettmannGetty Images

After Buckingham Palace decided to withdraw the video at the end of 1969, the full version hasn't been shown to the public since. "Legend has it that the Queen doesn't want parts of it to be shown," Paul Moorhouse, exhibition curator at National Portrait Gallery told The Telegraph in 2011. "There is a reluctance for this to be revisited...I wish we could show it in its entirety. It tells you a lot about family life. And it redefined the nation's view of the Queen. The audience was amazed to be able to hear the Queen speaking spontaneously, and to see her in a domestic setting."

The good news? Some clips are still available on the World Wide Web. And even though it's not the full documentary, it's still pretty fascinating to watch:

Liz, if you're reading this, please consider reviving the full video.

Spoilers for season 3. In The Crown, the documentary is depicted as causing an avalanche of bad press for the royal family. It's a moment of pure vulnerability, in which the royals realize that the people they serve may not, in fact, like them very much as they are—an ironic point, considering that The Crown itself could be considered a redeeming force for the British monarchy, making the family more human than we've ever seen them.

The documentary is a plot point in what turns into one of the best episodes of the season, if not in the entire series: "Bubbikins," which sees the return of Princess Alice, Philip's mother, a woman whose instability caused him a difficult childhood (though she clearly adores him, hence the nickname "Bubbikins"). Just as The Crown and the young royals have served to make the royal family feel more human to the public it serves, Princess Alice and the journalist she speaks to, John Armstrong (who, FYI, does not exist), bring a sense of humility to the royal family at a time when they need it.


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