Documentary Charles R: The Making of a Monarch features unseen footage

A peek at one’s private life: King is seen flying a plane solo, decorating a Christmas tree in Windsor and visiting Malta in unseen footage released for new BBC documentary charting Charles’ journey to the throne

  • BBC documentary tells the King’s story as heir to the throne ‘in his own words’
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Home movie footage from the Royal Family’s private archives is to feature in special new BBC documentary on the King to mark his coronation.

The 60-minute special ‘Charles R: The Making of a Monarch’, which will be aired on Sunday, also includes never seen before film from the rushes of the infamous 1969 documentary ‘Royal Family’.

The programme, which followed the family for over a year and was watched by three quarters of the population at the time, was made to humanise what Prince Philip worried was becoming an ‘over-stuffy’ monarchy.

But Queen Elizabeth got cold feet as she worried it could destroy their mystique and it has – officially at least – never been shown in public again.

Uniquely the documentary will be narrated not by a voice-over actor but by King Charles III himself, using excerpts taken from existing interviews and speeches over the years.

One of the scenes from the upcoming documentary (pictured) shows the then Prince Charles during an engagement at the Royal Mint

Spanning the seven decades of his life, the BBC Studios-produced film offers a rare and deeply personal glimpse into the royal’s life as heir to the throne, and now king.

Its producers have been given access to reels of film held at the BFI National Archive, responsible for the preservation and digital restoration of the Royal Collection of films.

The team were also behind 2022’s hugely popular Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen to mark the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Five never before seen images from the programme were released today/last night including shots of the then Prince flying a plane solo.

Other images portray a visit to the Royal Mint with Queen Elizabeth II, a trip to Malta when he was young, and a shot of The Prince decorating a Christmas tree at Windsor.

Footage yet to be released from the 1969 documentary shows the Royal Family enjoying a bonfire at Sandringham, sitting down to dinner onboard The Royal Yacht Britannia and taking a hovercraft.

Clips from the Royal Family’s private home movie footage will illuminate The Prince’s formative years by capturing his early love of nature, gardening and animals, as well as other rare footage of Queen Elizabeth II driving her Land Rover.

Audiences will hear The King discuss his childhood years, including his memories of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, as well as his school days, adolescence, and investiture as Prince of Wales.

Among the previously unseen footage in the documentary is this clip showing Charles (right) and the Queen (left) visiting the Royal Mint

The documentary will feature Charles talking about his childhood, including his memories of the Queen’s coronation among other memories (pictured here flying a plane solo in 1968 in Malta)

This image shows a young Charles in Malta in 1968. It is one of the five previously unseen images released today

According to the BBC’s head of history, the documentary ‘will give audiences a fresh insight’ into the ‘remarkable’ life of the monarch

It also contains recollections of The King’s military service and personal commentary of his commitment to charitable work, as well as his private passions and the role of the institution he now heads up. 

Simon Young, the BBC’s Head of History said: ‘It’s a real privilege to be trusted with such rare, unseen archive material to create a new and distinctive portrait of someone so famous and photographed. 

‘Carry On Reigning’: The story behind 1969 Royal documentary

Royal author Robert Hardman said many in the royal household liked the film (pictured)

Unseen footage in this new documentary comes from the rushes of the famous 1969 documentary ‘Royal Family’.

After airing on television just three times, the film was unseen for decades, until it was leaked onto YouTube in 2021 (and then quickly removed).

The Royal Family took part in the film, which was a combined effort between the BBC and ITV, in a bid to show they were just like their subjects.

It which quickly became a British phenomenon, and was watched over two weekends to rave reviews in June 1969, but was last shown three years later after reports Buckingham Palace feared it ‘let the magic out’ about the royals.

However, not everyone believes this is the case, with royal biographer Robert Hardman putting forward a different story.

In his 2022 book Queen of Our Times, the author argued many in the royal household actually raved about the film, even nicknaming it ‘Carry On Reigning’.

He wrote: ‘Half a century on, some commentators have suggested that the family quickly came to regard it all as a terrible mistake, never to be seen again – a view reinforced by The Crown. Those within the Royal Household remember the complete opposite.’

And as opposed to the film being banned from appearing on screen because it had offended the Queen, Hardman said it hadn’t been shown because of copyright issues.

He wrote: ‘From the outset, the film was only ever supposed to have a limited timespan before being locked away.’

Robert added: ‘The Queen retained the copyright and did not want the material being quarried or adapted for years to come.’ 

‘As Their Majesties’ Coronation approaches, this film will give audiences a fresh insight into his remarkable life.’

Claire Popplewell, Creative Director for BBC Studios Events Productions added: ‘This documentary brings audiences a treasure trove of scenes filmed across seven decades in the life of The King. 

‘Unique and unseen moments with contemporary archive sources and the spoken words of His Majesty, Charles R: The Making of a Monarch tells the story of how a Prince became a King.’

As the BBC points out, some of these unseen moments come from the rushes of the 1969 documentary ‘Royal Family’.

After airing a handful of times on television, the film was hidden away from the eyes of the public for years. 

In 2021, the full 110 minutes were leaked onto YouTube, with thousands of people watching footage of the documentary.

Speaking about the leak, a royal source told the Telegraph: ‘This is a matter for the BBC. We always exercise our copyright where we can. From time to time, things pop up on the internet that should not be there. We will assume it’s going to be taken down.’

It was quickly removed, which once again opened the debate around why the Palace has been so secretive around the footage. 

There is some debate over whether the Firm wanted the film locked away because Buckingham Palace feared it ‘let the magic out’ about the royals, or whether it wasn’t aired again simply due to a copyright issue.

What isn’t up for debate was how keenly watched the documentary was.

The documentary was viewed by 45million people when first broadcast, ahead of Prince Charles’ investiture, and was initially created to help the Windsors connect with their subjects. 

It showed the family in a number of scenarios.

One scene shows Elizabeth rejecting a speech her Private Secretary has drafted and complaining: ‘There’s too much, you know, history.’ 

In another, Margaret meets the 1968 British Olympic team and asks them where they train.   

The documentary also showed more mundane details of daily life, such as how the family had lunch, at 1pm, with food being pushed on a trolley from the Buckingham Palace basement through more than ‘200 yards of corridors’ and then up in a lift two floors to the Queen’s residence. 

The idea for the film came from the Palace’s royal press secretary William Heseltine.

In a recent series of The Crown, the Netflix drama inaccurately portrayed the film being the brainchild of Prince Philip.

But in fact, it was the communications specialist who suggested the movie, in a bid to improve public opinion of the monarchy.

He felt it could encourage public support for an organisation that was increasingly seen as out-of-touch.

It was first aired in June 1969. The programme was met with praise and proved so popular that it was aired again that same year and once more in 1972. 

But it hasn’t been broadcast in full since, though short clips from the documentary were made available as part of an exhibition for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee 2012.

However, for the most past the original documentary remains under lock and key.

The Queen (pictured in the documentary) took part in the film on the advice of press secretary William Heseltine, who felt it might encourage support for the monarchy

Researchers who want to watch it have to pay to view it at BBC HQ, only after getting permission from Buckingham Palace first.

Sharing his view of the documentary in 1969, then BBC 2 controller David Attenborough wrote to its producer-director.

He said: ‘You’re killing the monarchy, you know, with this film you’re making. The whole institution depends on ­mystique and the tribal chief in his hut,’ continued Attenborough, then BBC 2 controller.

‘If any member of the tribe ever sees inside the hut, then the whole system of the tribal chiefdom is damaged and the tribe eventually disintegrates.’

Charles R: The Making of a Monarch will debut on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Sunday April 30.

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