Queen Elizabeth Seen Like Never Before in New Documentary Featuring Rare Royal Family Home Movies

The home movies, which were mostly shot by members of the royal family, date back to the 1920s

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth. Photo: Courtesy BBC

A joyful image of Queen Elizabeth when she got engaged to Prince Philip is included in a new documentary that features never-before-seen home movies of the monarch.

The shot shows the Queen — known as Princess Elizabeth at the time — beaming at her engagement ring during a vacation to Balmoral Castle in Scotland in 1946 — well before her impending wedding was announced.

The BBC documentary, Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen, will tell the Queen's story from her life as a young princess to her Coronation. The 75-minute program, which will air on BBC and on its streaming service iPlayer on May 29, pieces together the royal family's unique archive of personal films.

In addition to the post-engagement footage, two additional images from the documentary were released on Saturday. The first shows Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret with their beloved father King George VI onboard the HMS Vanguard in 1947 and the other is of Elizabeth enjoying a visit to South Africa in 1947.

Queen Elizabeth
Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth with their beloved father King George VI onboard HMS Vanguard in 194. Courtesy BBC

The home movies, which were mostly shot by members of the royal family, date back to the 1920s and have been kept private for decades by the British Film Institute on behalf of the Royal Collection Trust.

With new and unprecedented access granted by the Queen, the BBC says the documentary will show the Queen's journey from being pushed in a pram as a baby by her mother to her Coronation at the age of 27 in 1953. Elizabeth acceded to the throne in February 1952 following the death of her father George VI.

A 20-year-old Princess Elizabeth enjoying a visit to South Africa in 1947. Courtesy BBC

The film goes behind the scenes of her royal upbringing, capturing her warm relationship with her parents and Prince Philip's first extended visit to Balmoral in 1946 following their royal engagement.

There are proud moments between the Queen's parents and their grandchildren, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Other rare moments include Elizabeth's grandfather George V (known to the Queen as "Grandpa England") sailing with the Queen Mother off the Isle of Wight in 1931, and there's also footage of the royal family at Balmoral in 1951, which marks the King's last visit there before his death.

The film largely relies on the Queen's own voice and words via the many public speeches she has made over the last eight decades.

"It's through her own eyes and in her own words across her reign," a palace spokesman says.

Producers have also discovered newsreels given to the Queen, including behind-the-scenes recordings of state events believed to be privately commissioned by the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth. Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty

The Queen is aware of the production and gave her permission for the use of the unique images, but she has not yet seen the film, which is still unfinished, a royal source says.

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Simon Young, the BBC's Commissioning Editor for History says, "We are honored that the Queen has entrusted the BBC with such unprecedented access to her personal film collection. This documentary is an extraordinary glimpse into a deeply personal side of the Royal Family that is rarely seen, and it's wonderful to be able to share it with the nation as we mark her Platinum Jubilee."

Claire Popplewell, Creative Director for BBC Studios Productions added in a statement, "As program-makers who have previously worked closely with the Royal Household on ceremonial and celebratory broadcast events and programs, the production team was under no illusion quite how special having access to this very personal archive was. Being able to draw upon the self-recorded history of a young Princess Elizabeth and her wider family - and allowing The Queen to tell us her own story - is the very heart of this film."

The documentary will kick off a week of festivities that will celebrate the Queen's 70 years on the throne — her Platinum Jubilee. Central to that will be a birthday parade, Trooping the Colour, and opportunities for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to join the rest of the royal family in a series of celebrations.

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