Princess Anne loathed Royal Family documentary: ‘It was a rotten idea’ | Royal | News (Reports)


Fly-on-the-wall royal family documentary BANNED

The fly-on-the-wall documentary was the first of its kind, allowing the public inside Palace gates to see how the royals lived their everyday lives. The idea was to modernise the monarchy and make it appear less stuffy and detached, but some feared it went too far in the other direction. There were concerns that if the public felt the royals were ordinary people, they would start to question why they are put on such a pedestal. Even Sir David Attenborough warned that the documentary would “kill the monarchy”.

It was aired in full just twice ‒ in 1969 and 1977 ‒ before the Queen had it locked away in the vaults.

Since then, only a 90-second clip of it has been shown with permission, but bizarrely yesterday the whole two hours were leaked online.

The documentary was mysteriously uploaded to YouTube, but has now been taken down.

While some disliked the tape for its overall portrayal of the royals, Princess Anne simply disliked the fact that cameras started appearing in her private space.

She had always hated the media attention and the spotlight and bemoaned the fact that there would be yet more intrusion into her private life.

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Princess Anne thought the Royal Family documentary was a “rotten idea” (Image: GETTY)

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The Royal Family sit around the breakfast table in the 1969 documentary (Image: GETTY)

There was also the fact that opening up the gates to the media themselves opened a Pandora’s Box and arguably justified intrusion in the future.

According to the book ‘Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family’, Anne said: “I never liked the idea of ‘Royal Family’, I thought it was a rotten idea.

“The attention which had been brought upon one ever since one was a child, you just didn’t need any more.”

Princess Anne had an especially frosty relationship with the press who accused her of being “sulky” and “bad-tempered” when she was a young woman.

The princess also disliked how reporters would ask her personal questions and photograph her falling off her horse.

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Princess Anne feeds her horse sugar cubes in the 1969 documentary (Image: Hulton Archive/ GETTY)

The idea for a Royal Family documentary had been suggested by Lord Brabourne, the son-in-law of Lord Mountbatten, who suggested TV could be used to reach out to the masses.

Palace press officer William Heseltine was keen on the idea, convinced that offering a humanised view of the Royal Family would strengthen the monarchy.

Prince Philip agreed and the Queen cautiously gave her consent, although Anne remained stead-fast against it.

However, she was overruled and filming began in 1968.

Richard Cawston, chief of the BBC Documentary Unit, was in charge and the crew shot 43 hours of unscripted material at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, on the royal yacht, the royal train and Balmoral Castle.

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The Royal Family meet President Richard Nixon in the 1969 documentary (Image: Hulton Archive/ GETTY)

It showed the Queen working hard and making small talk with world leaders like US President Richard Nixon.

There were also more personal scenes, including one where the Queen took Prince Edward to a sweet shop.

However, there were a few awkward moments, such as when Prince Philip described the late King George VI as having “very odd habits”, such as when he took out his rage with a pruning knife on a rhododendron bush while screaming swear words at it.

The Duke of Edinburgh said: “Sometimes I thought he was mad.”

At times, the royals found it difficult having a camera crew around.

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According to the book ‘Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made it into the Twenty-First Century’, Philip once snapped at the crew: “Get away from the Queen with your bloody cameras!”

When the documentary was finished, the Queen and Philip were shown it before it aired.

The film’s editor Michael Bradsell told the Smithsonian channel in 2017: “She was a little critical of the film in this sense she thought it was too long, but Dick Cawston, the director, persuaded her that two hours ws not a minute too long.”

More than 30 million people in the UK tuned in to watch it when it aired on June 21, 1969.

The public were treated to another TV special when Prince Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales just a week later.

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The Queen and Prince Philip on an aeroplane in the 1969 documentary (Image: GETTY)

While the ratings were a huge success and it was considered to have done its job in humanising the royals, the family themselves reportedly hated it.

It was therefore locked away and only shown in full again once in 1977.

Pamela Hicks, daughter of Lord Mountbatten, said: “They were criticised for being stuffy and not letting anybody know what they were doing, and my brother-in-law helped do up a film, and now people say, ‘Ah, of course, the rot set in when the film was made.

“You can’t do right; it’s Catch-22.”

Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family’ was published by DK in 2015. It is available here.

‘Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made it into the Twenty-First Century’ was written by Peter Conrandi and published by Alma Books Ltd in 2012. It is available here.


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