will make you feel closer to the queen than ever
“No one can stop history,” said Her Majesty the Queen in 1958. Well, for 75 minutes, Elizabeth: The Invisible Queen (BBC One) almost did. Using 400 reels from the Queen’s personal video archive – many of which have never been seen by the public – editor Mark Hammill and director Simon Finch have created a pretty stunning and truly moving collage of the first three decades of Elizabeth II’s life. . This is not the chronicle of a queen, but the story of a family.
If the images are remarkable, they are accompanied by a voiceover delivered by the queen herself. This is also a quilt, taken from 60 of the Queen’s Speeches (the story’s stop line was spoken during a state visit by the President of West Germany, Theodor Heuss), but supplemented with new thoughts from the Queen, recorded this month at Windsor Castle. The Queen has done little in recent years to bring her so close to the people of the UK. It’s like she’s taking us – me, you – through her vacation snaps and treasured old videos. Which she was, of course.
It’s the early years that are amazing. Before adulthood, before his father fell ill, before the weight of the crown on his head. Claire Foy’s portrayal of the Queen in the Netflix drama series The Crown assumed earnest, sober devotion to duty was precooked, part of her DNA. Maybe. But in these reels, we see a carefree and mischievous little girl, reveling in the attentions of the camera and her beloved father.
In the early 1930s we see Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret tottering in the garden, playing with Papa (George VI, then Duke of York), being tossed giddily around the lawn on a wicker deck chair (delightfully, nearly two decades later, we see King George treating two-year-old Prince Charles with the same little thrill). In the late 1930s, we’re at Balmoral, sketching in the heather and paddling in the lake, while Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, regularly makes humorous cameos (who knew the royals were so clumsy?). In a spellbinding short scene, Elizabeth and Margaret, giggling and dressed in matching blue dresses with white polka dots, perform a choreographed dance in front of the camera, as corgis rush to their feet. It would take a hardened Republican not to feel tremendous warmth towards them right now.