Fury as infamous royal documentary leaked on YouTube

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·5-min read

A BBC documentary about the royal family that was infamously hidden away from the public shortly after it aired has reportedly been leaked on YouTube, leaving Buckingham Palace furious.

The 110-minute film, titled Royal Family, was first broadcast on June 21, 1969, and gave the world unprecedented insight into the private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, her husband, Prince Philip and their four children.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, Duke of York watch a flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Colour, the Queen's annual birthday parade, on June 8, 2019 in London, England.
The Palace is said to be furious after an infamous documentary about the royal family was leaked on YouTube. Photo: Getty Images.

Inside the royal family

Cameras followed the royal family closely for a year, capturing over 40 hours of fly-on-the-wall footage of the Windsors at work and at play.

Three-quarters of the British population tuned in for a behind-the-scenes look at the Queen’s official tours of Chile and Brazil, a shirtless 20-something Charles waterskiing in Malta and intimate family dinners at the Palace.

The eye-opening doco was later sold internationally and viewed by an estimated audience of 350 million. But by 1972, all copies were placed under lock and key after the Queen decided that it “cheapened” the royal family’s image.

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File photo dated 21/04/68 of (left to right) the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal, the Earl of Wessex, the Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of York at Frogmore Cottage. A groundbreaking fly-on-the wall documentary about the royal family from 1969 - which had been hidden for 50 years - has resurfaced in full on the internet before being swiftly removed.. Issue date: Thursday January 28, 2021. Royal fans were able to view the entire 105-minute BBC programme on YouTube for the first time since it was withdrawn from use in the early 1970s. See PA story ROYAL Documentary. Photo credit should read: PA/PA Wire
In this photo from April 1968, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal, the Earl of Wessex, the Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of York pose in the garden at Frogmore Cottage. Photo: PA/PA Wire.

Hidden doco leaked

The documentary remained unseen and largely forgotten until earlier this month when the entire program mysteriously reappeared online. Before it could be removed it was viewed by thousands of curious royal fans who were no doubt intrigued after seeing the doco being filmed in season three of Netflix’s The Crown.

According to the Telegraph, a royal source pointed the finger straight at the BBC.

“This is a matter for the BBC. We always exercise our copyright where we can. From time to time, things pop up on the internet that should not be there. We will assume it’s going to be taken down,” they were quoted.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip aboard a royal flight in a scene from BBC & ITV co-production, the 'Royal Family' was first transmitted on 21st June 1969.
The Queen and Prince Philip aboard a royal flight in a scene from the Royal Family documentary. Photo: Getty Images.

Her Majesty’s former Press Secretary Dickie Arbiter speculated that the footage had been ‘nicked’ from the BBC archives.

“The Palace will have a version of it, they have one from every broadcaster as they’re sent down and they’re securely locked up, but how this one got out is for the BBC to sort out,” he told the Daily Mail.

“Somebody obviously nicked it from the BBC – it was a BBC documentary done with the corporation of the royal family, and it’s BBC copyright. They made it, their equipment, their people, Antony Jay’s script, so it was their copyright. But how it got out, that’s something they’ll have to find out,” he added.

A BBC source informed the Telegraph that they intended to “approach YouTube to have it removed,” but said that it was “notoriously difficult to chase these things down” once they’ve been leaked.

The footage, which is said to have been uploaded by a user called ‘Philip Strangeways’ has indeed been removed from the platform due to a ‘copyright claim’.

Queen Elizabeth II lunches with Prince Philip and their children Princess Anne and Prince Charles at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, circa 1969. A camera (left) is set up to film for Richard Cawston's BBC documentary 'Royal Family', which followed the Royal Family over a period of a year and was broadcast on 21st June 1969. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Queen and Prince Philip lunch with their two eldest children, Princess Anne and Prince Charles at Windsor Castle while being filmed for the BBC documentary, Royal Family. Photo: Getty Images.

Groundbreaking access

According to royal biographer Penny Junor, Prince Philip was the driving force behind the documentary which was strongly opposed by both Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother.

“I think it’s quite wrong that there should be a sense of remoteness or majesty,” Junor quotes Philip in her book.

“If people see, whoever it happens to be, whatever head of state, as individuals, as people, I think it makes it much easier for them to accept the system or to feel part of the system,” Philip also said.

His enthusiasm for the project managed to convince the Queen to give it the green light and so the groundbreaking experiment began.

Notable moments from the program included hearing Her Majesty speak freely with her family for the very first time — up until then the public had only heard her delivering formal, preprepared speeches.

In one scene, the Queen recalled a funny encounter with the Home Secretary — who was James Callaghan at the time — to Philip, Anne and Charles at the breakfast table.

(Original Caption) Photograph shows Princess Elizabeth, Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten, her then fiance, her mother, then Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother, and her father, King George VI, in a family photograph made shortly before the Princess's wedding.
Prince Philip (second from left) with his father-in-law, King George VI (second from right) in 1947. Philip said the King had some "very odd habits" in the 1969 Royal Family documentary. Photo: Getty Images.

“It is extremely difficult sometimes to keep a straight face when the Home Secretary said to me, ‘There is a gorilla coming in,’” she says.

“So I said, ‘What an extraordinary remark to make, very unkind.’ … I stood in the middle of the room and pressed the bell and the doors opened and there was a gorilla. He had a short body and long arms – I had the most appalling trouble [not laughing],” she explains.

While it’s not known who the ‘gorilla’ was it’s thought to be one of the US Ambassadors to the UK, potentially Walter Annenberg or his predecessor David K. E. Bruce.

In another scene, Prince Philip speculates on the mental wellbeing of his late father-in-law, King George VI, who he described as having “very odd habits.”

“Sometimes I thought he was mad,” Philip said, claiming that he once came across the King, who died in 1952, furiously pruning a bush in the royal gardens while muttering obscenities.

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