Unseen footage of Queen Elizabeth II to be shown this month

The British monarch granted the BBC unprecedented access to home-made recordings

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A BBC documentary featuring never-before-seen footage of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II taken from her personal archive will include clips of the monarch beaming at her engagement ring — months before the announcement was made public.

The queen granted the BBC unprecedented access to hundreds of home-made recordings shot by her, her parents and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in honour of her platinum jubilee.

The home movies, which had been held privately by the Royal Collection in the vaults of the British Film Institute, capture the queen’s life from being pushed in a pram by her mother to her coronation in 1953.

Footage from 1946 of then Princess Elizabeth showing off her new engagement ring soon after Prince Philip's proposal at Balmoral, which appears in the BBC documentary 'Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen'. Photo: BBC via PA Media

The 75-minute documentary, titled Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen, to be broadcast on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on May 29, captures the first extended visit of Prince Philip to Balmoral in 1946, while the couple’s engagement was still not public.

It depicts a beaming Princess Elizabeth showing the camera her engagement ring.

The queen was a young princess when she first met naval cadet Prince Philip of Greece in 1939, during a visit to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth where he was studying.

Footage from 1947 of Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth with their father, King George VI, on board 'HMS Vanguard' from the BBC documentary 'Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen'. Photo: BBC via PA Media

Prince Philip, who was 18, was introduced to Elizabeth, 13, at the house of the captain of the college.

The pair began writing to each other and Prince Philip was invited to spend the Christmas of 1943 with the royal family at Windsor.

It has previously been suggested the couple became unofficially engaged in the summer of 1946 while they were staying at Balmoral, but the official announcement was delayed until after Princess Elizabeth reached the age of 21 and returned from a royal tour of South Africa the following year.

This documentary is an extraordinary glimpse into a deeply personal side of the royal family that is rarely seen
Simon Young, the BBC’s commissioning editor for history

The couple wed in November 1947 and were married for 73 years before the Duke of Edinburgh died last April, merely a few months before his 100th birthday.

The BBC documentary depicts rare moments including footage of Princess Elizabeth with her uncle Prince George, Duke of Kent, who died in a plane crash in 1942 while on active service, and the King’s last visit to Balmoral in 1951.

It will also show the queen as a young mother with the king and queen fond grandparents to Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

BBC Studios reviewed more than 400 reels of film, discovering lost newsreel and behind-the-scenes recordings of state events, believed to have been privately commissioned by the royal family.

Filmmakers listened to more than 300 of the queen’s speeches, spanning more than eight decades, to make the documentary, which is narrated by the queen’s own voice and words alongside newsreel audio.

Simon Young, the BBC’s commissioning editor for history, said: “We are honoured that the queen has entrusted the BBC with such unprecedented access to her personal film collection.

“This documentary is an extraordinary glimpse into a deeply personal side of the royal family that is rarely seen, and it’s wonderful to be able to share it with the nation as we mark her platinum jubilee.”

Claire Popplewell, creative director for BBC Studios Productions, said: “As programme-makers who have previously worked closely with the royal household on ceremonial and celebratory broadcast events and programmes, the production team were under no illusion quite how special having access to this very personal archive was.

“Being able to draw upon the self-recorded history of a young Princess Elizabeth and her wider family — and allowing the queen to tell us her own story — is the very heart of this film.”

Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen will be broadcast on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on May 29

Updated: May 08, 2022, 5:23 AM