Say “documentary” and some people actually have their eyes glaze over. I’ve never understood this! One of my must-watch shows online is American Experience on PBS. My other is whatever good documentary I can find.
All photos are from The Royal Family (1969)
Sadly, the one royal documentary you won’t be able to see, is the first royal “reality” show: The Royal Family made in 1968-1969 and shown when Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales. Having been since hidden away ever since with only selected clips allowed to be aired, it is widely credited with beginning the press obsession with everything in the Royal’s private lives.
The film, even in 1969, showed the Royals being….well…odd. In 1969 it wasn’t the norm for little children to be taught by a Governess in a Palace. Nor was it normal for a wife and mother to relax in front of the t.v. in priceless jewelry while her youngest wore a silk romper! But the various attempts to show an otherwise “normal” family–Anne being bossy to Andrew as they put up a Christmas tree, Philip telling unfunny stories–one of which finally made sense after the world saw Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, and other so-called “normal” moments flung open the door to curiosity about the formerly off-limits private lives of Royalty. Though the go-cart scene with Charles and Edward was delightful. It is often said that this, to paraphrase Walter Bagehot, was what let the “daylight in on the magic” of royalty.
Remember, the Queen’s parents were never shown fleeing to Windsor Castle for the night during the Blitz, while the rest of London sought shelter below ground. Nor were the very odd sexual antics of the Queen’s Uncles Georgie and David ever mentioned. Prince Harry’s strip pool game was tame by comparison. Neither was Georgie’s drug habit or, until the last possible minute, David’s love for Mrs. Simpson ever shown–these were never mentioned in the British Press. Nor, for that matter, was Princess Margaret’s very risque party life shown or the fact that she smoked from about age 13.
But, having opened the door, it didn’t stay shut. I’ve lost track of the number of documentaries that claim “exclusive and unprecedented access” to which ever royal they are filming. All seem to show most of the same things–the Queen with her horses, a cute shot of the youngest royals, horse racing, a state dinner yada yada yada. But among those “reality shows” there are one or two worth watching. There are also traditional documentaries that do not follow a certain royal, but look back at them instead. Today we are binge-ing on the reality show type.
A Jubilee Tribute to the Queen by the Prince of Wales is a collection of memories by Prince Charles of his mother whom he endlessly refers to as “My Ma’ma” (the habit, I suppose, of always having to say The Queen or Her Majesty, makes it sound so awkward). But lots of nice home movies. You can find it on youtube.
Elizabeth at 90: A Family Tribute, features home movies and members of the extended Royal Family chiming in with memories. This one briefly made the very emotional Lady Sarah Chatto, daughter of Princess Magaret, into an internet sensation for her empathy. This film features the Queen publically mentioning her governess, “Crawfie”–Miss Crawford, by name–something not done since the 1950s. Miss Crawford is seen in some of the home movies. Finally, it also features Princes William and Harry being adorable over their father’s early moments. Elizabeth at 90. Selections can be found on youtube.
20 years after her death, Prince William and Prince Harry made this tribute to their mother. Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy. “She was the naugtiest Mother.” is the quote from this one. Some felt it meant the princes have no regard for the father, which is nonsense.
Our Queen at 90 Is a brand-new documentary with lots of great interviews and comments from members of the Royal Family. While not yet on dvd in America, it has been widely quoted in the press. It’s where William and Harry talk about the Queen as their “boss” and their Granny. Here’s a small clip from it.
Ever-angry Andrew Marr looks at the Queen’s reign.
While the flag guy was something of a village idiot, the rest of this one is marvelous. I especially enjoyed the interviews with Prince Philip. This features bonus footage with Charles and Camilla’s post-wedding celebration. Haters Can Hate all they want–they aren’t the focus of this excellent docmentary. Windsor Castle: A Royal Year
The Duke at Ninety doesn’t appear to be available on dvd in America. So, here is a link to it on YouTube for which I bear no responsibility. The entire documentary is available there just look for the other parts.
Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007) introduces the “new” Royals–Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as showcasing the unsung heros of the family–the Queen’s first cousins. The Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra of Kent are shown doing the daily Royal Round. While the Queen and Prince Philip and their two eldest children, Charles, Prince of Wales and Anne, the Princess Royal do the bulk of it, the others are given a lot of screen time to thank them for their years of hard work.
Elizabeth R is available used–usually on VHS though. Most of it is on You Tube as well. It’s very old now, but shows a great State Visit with Lech Walesa in which his unique command of profane English is discussed by the Queen! It is best remembered though, for this clip feature Princes William and Harry and Princess Beatrice and Eugenie. William is walking since it was at the time of his head injury from a golf club. Eugenie is toddling, the other grandchildren are riding.
Tomorrow we wrap up with the rest of the royal documentaries and then it’s the Big 9-0!