The Daily Telegraph
Return of the film that 'almost killed the monarchy'
FOOTAGE from a controversial documentary about the Royal family that was shelved four decades ago over fears that it was “killing the monarchy” is to be screened in public again.
When the Queen allowed the television cameras into Buckingham Palace in 1969, the nation watched in wonder. The documentary, Royal Family, was a sensation. First broadcast by the BBC and a week later by ITV, it was watched by three quarters of the population, and it was replayed endlessly on television that year.
Yet the bold attempt to usher the monarchy into the modern age proved highly controversial. Critics claimed that Richard Cawston’s film destroyed the mystique of the Royal family by showing them to be ordinary people. It included scenes of the Duke of Edinburgh frying sausages at a Balmoral barbecue. It also showed the Queen making small talk with Richard Nixon, the American president, telling him: “World problems are so complex, aren’t they, now?”
According to one royal biographer, the Queen regretted her decision to allow the cameras in and it came to be seen as a “reinvention that went wrong”.
Sir David Attenborough, then a BBC controller, allegedly told Cawston that his film was “killing the monarchy”.
Buckingham Palace withdrew it at the end of 1969 and it has not been seen again in public. More than 40 years on, the National Portrait Gallery has been granted permission to feature an excerpt in a forthcoming exhibition celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It shows her sitting down to breakfast with the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, and regaling them with an anecdote about a dignitary falling over in front of Queen Victoria.
Buckingham Palace has restricted the clip to 90 seconds. Paul Moorhouse, the curator of the exhibition, said: “Legend has it that the Queen doesn’t want parts of it to be shown.
“I wish we could show it in its entirety. It tells you a lot about family life. And it redefined the nation’s view of the Queen.”
The Queen: Art and Image opens at the National Gallery in Edinburgh on June 25 and will visit Belfast and Cardiff before opening in London on May 17 next year. ÞPortraits of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, painted by Andy Warhol to celebrate their wedding have been put up for sale for £2million.