She was the most photographed woman in the world, but with 70 years on the throne and 96 years of life, there’s so much out there about the Queen it can be a little bit hard to know where to start.
Following her death, we’ve put together a list of some of the best documentaries about the Queen and her reign to honour her legacy and learn more about her incredible life.
The Unseen Queen
Released earlier this year on the BBC to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Unseen Queen delves into the private archives of the late monarch to paint a picture of her before she was coronated. There’s early footage of Elizabeth in a pram, as well as her and her parents in Southern Africa, her engagement to Prince Phillip and her as a mother with Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The footage is shot by the Royals themselves, including the future Queen, King George VI, Prince Phillip and the Queen Mother. It’ll show you a more intimate portrait of the young Queen than ever before.
Produced back in 1992, Elizabeth R was an officially approved documentary about the monarch and the Royal Family. It was conceived as a way of showing the life of the Queen as she experienced it, rather than through news cameras, and follows roughly a year of her life, from 1990 to 1991. It shows her carrying out various royal duties, visiting the United States, riding ponies at Balmoral and meeting historical figures like Ronald Reagan, Edward Heath and Polish President Lech Walesa. It even features voiceover commentary from the Queen, a first for television, and remains a fascinating watch.
Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts
Also released for the Platinum Jubilee, Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts is directed by acclaimed British director Roger Michell, known for his works like Notting Hill and Hyde Park On Hudson. It examines and celebrates her historic 70 year reign, and how she took on the role of Queen, as well as some of her personality behind closed doors, featuring interviews with figures like Sir Paul McCartney, discussing her iconic status and influence. It all comes together to create a moving portrait of not only the Queen’s sometimes difficult duties, but also her humorous and down-to-earth side.
Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty
This 2020 Netflix series delves into the lives of and relationship between Queen Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, who died in 2002. Across two parts, you’ll see how the lives of the two children were upended by the abdication of their uncle Edward VIII in 1936, passing the throne to George VI and ensuring Queen Elizabeth became the heir apparent. The documentary also shows how later in their lives, Princess Margaret’s romantic relationships became a strain on the two, with public perceptions and scandal influencing them.
Elizabeth: Her Passions and Pastimes
An hour long documentary film, Elizabeth: Her Passions and Pastimes explores what the Queen enjoyed most in life, and what her interests were. Everyone knows about her love of corgis, and the documentary also covers her fond passion for horses and horse riding, as well as theatre and music (she was known to love a good show tune), and TV and films that she enjoyed. There’s all manner of figures interviewed, like Cliff Richard, Clare Balding, Tom Jones, Michael Morpurgo and Steven Spielberg.
The Queen’s Coronation In Colour
The Queen’s coronation was the first televised coronation in British history (though there is footage of George VI’s), and was a defining moment for Britain in the 20th century. The Queen’s Coronation In Colour sees the Queen remember the day, and features archive footage of the events in colour.
A Queen Is Crowned
Also a documentary about the coronation, A Queen Is Crowned is essentially a recorded version of the coronation, released in 1953 in British cinemas and narrated by legendary actor Laurence Olivier. It’s in Technicolour, and is still available to watch today, transporting you back in time to how it must’ve felt to watch back in the 1950s.