How Royal Family Documentary Deleted by YouTube 'Started the Rot' of Privacy Invasion

A BBC documentary about the royal family taken down from YouTube "started the rot" of royal family privacy invasion, critics at the time claimed.

Some felt The Royal Family fly-on-the-wall film from the 1960s "encouraged the discarding of any remaining restraint" from the media in its treatment of Queen Elizabeth II's family.

The film observed the royals as they went about their everyday lives but was only ever broadcast twice and after being uploaded to YouTube last week was hastily deleted.

The platform said the decision followed a copyright claim, with SkyNews suggesting the complaint originated with the BBC, rather than the royals.

Ingrid Seward, author of Prince Philip Revealed, told Newsweek: "I have a very high grade VHS copy of it so there must be copies floating around. After much thought Prince Philip thought it would be a good idea. The queen wasn't so anti it but she just said, look you can film it but if I hate it at the end of filming you can't use it.

Queen Elizabeth II Visits Royal Philatelic Society
Queen Elizabeth II visits the new headquarters of the Royal Philatelic society on November 26, 2019 in London, England. The queen agreed to fly-on-the-wall documentary Royal Family but critics said it 'started the rot'. Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty

"She was very wary of it but she agreed. She wasn't forced into it. It went down a storm, especially globally because people hadn't seen the queen sort of just moving about in her normal life," Seward said.

"Of course, the critics blamed everything that went wrong with the monarchy on that film. They said suddenly the monarchy had shed light on the magic."

In her book, Seward described how Prince Philip suggested the documentary to the queen because he felt it would show the royal family as down to earth at a time when there were concerns about the cost of the monarchy.

She quotes the prince saying: "I think it is quite wrong that there should be a sense of remoteness about majesty. If people see, whoever it happens to be, whatever head of state, as individuals, as people, I think it makes it much easier for them to accept the system or to feel part of the system."

First broadcast in 1969, it came against the backdrop of an increased desire from the public and journalists to end the era of deference to the royals and view them with "a fickle adulation more appropriate to the entertainment industry," Seward writes.

The book reads: "The film had its critics and many to this day believe it 'started the rot' by offering an intimacy never previously provided and leaving the public and the press hungry for more. Some even said the film encouraged the discarding of any remaining restraint."

It quotes historian Kenneth Rose stating: "The sight of Prince Philip cooking sausages meant that after that people would want to see the dining room, the sitting room and everything except the loo."

Seward, however, told Newsweek: "They couldn't hide away forever and this was the beginning of them opening up. Maybe it was too much, too soon but I think it was a very good idea."

However, anti-monarchy campaign group Republic is now calling for the BBC to re-release the documentary, claiming the public has a right to see it.

Graham Smith, the CEO, said in a statement: "This film should be in the public domain so that people can make their own judgements about the royals. There is a clear public interest in its release, and there is clearly something wrong with the BBC taking instructions from the royals.

"The BBC produced the film yet it is claimed to be covered by Crown copyright. The BBC defends its impartial news reporting yet has allowed the subjects of a documentary to control access to it.

"It is clear that the royals are worried about damage to their image, which is why they're insisting the documentary stay locked away. It is not the job of the BBC to protect the royals from scrutiny. No-one else would have that kind of power over the BBC."

The BBC and Buckingham Palace declined to comment.