Royal Family Documentary Banned by the Queen Is Leaked Onto YouTube 50 Years Later

The Queen and Prince Philip opened their palace doors to television cameras for the landmark film in 1969 – and it has remained in the vaults ever since

The royal family
The royal family at Windsor Castle in 1969, (from left) Prince Edward, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew. Photo: Fox Photos/Getty

An infamous documentary on the royal family that was said to have been banned by Queen Elizabeth decades ago was mysteriously leaked onto YouTube this week.

The fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary, titled Royal Family, aired in 1969 and offered an unprecedented look inside the life of Queen Elizabeth and her family. Prince Philip thought it would open the doors to what being a member of the royal family was all about, but the Queen was said to have regretted the decision to film the documentary and it has largely been locked away ever since.

That is until this week when someone uploaded the film onto YouTube. It was swiftly taken down on Thursday before appearing again briefly on Friday morning.

The often-charming video charts Queen Elizabeth's working life and her home life over the course of a year and could be a real-life version of Netflix's The Crown. (In fact, it's clear to see that some of The Crown's familiar scenes were inspired by it!)

Royal Family
The royal family at Sandringham. CENTRAL PRESS PHOTO LTD/AFP via Getty

For millions of her subjects, Royal Family was a unique insight into Her Majesty's life and work – from diplomatic functions to greeting ambassadors to travel to places like Chile and rides on the Royal Train. Viewers got to see her awakened every morning by the sound of bagpipes — something that continues to this day at Windsor, or wherever she is staying.

An intimate family moment around the barbecue on the grounds of Balmoral Castle in Scotland is also shown. And the Queen is seen alongside her daughter Princess Anne as they watch some of her racehorses being put through their paces in the midst of the Berkshire Downs. Anne famously disapproved of the documentary.

"I never liked the idea of the Royal Family film. I always thought it was a rotten idea," she previously said. "The attention that had been brought on one ever since one was a child, you just didn't want anymore. The last thing you needed was greater access."

The Queen, who has often been perceived as a distant mother, is also seen as being very hands-on, excitedly driving through the snow to take her sons Prince Edward — who is about 5 years old — and Prince Andrew to see the Labradors during their winter break in Sandringham. Edward is even seen learning to read alongside cousin Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones and some friends.

Prince Charles and Family
The royal family. Bettmann/Getty

The film also shows the visit of President Richard Nixon, who tells Charles and Anne that his daughters follow their progress avidly via news reports.

There is a lot of introduction to Charles as heir. At the time, he was studying at Cambridge University and is seen being told about his Duchy of Cornwall. He is still heir, 52 years later.

At the end of the film is a moment that some have pondered may be the reason the show has been kept under wraps. As the family gathers around the table over tea, Queen Elizabeth recounts a tale of when the (unnamed) British Home Secretary – a U.K. Government minister – tells her, "There's a gorilla coming in" for a meeting.

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The Queen says she turned to the politician and said, "What an extraordinary remark to make about someone – very unkind about anybody.'" She goes on to explain, "I stood in the middle of the room and pressed the bell and the doors opened and there was a gorilla. I had the most terrible trouble. He had a short body and long arms."

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Around the table, Charles and Philip join in the lively conversation. "If that happened to me, I would dissolve," says Charles.

The remark would be rightly seen as wildly inappropriate today, but apparently was barely commented upon at the time.

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