7 definitive documentaries about the Queen to watch now

From the Queen’s coronation in glorious technicolour to unseen moments from her life, these documentaries provide a new perspective on the late monarch

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In spite of the fact that so many of us may feel like we personally knew the Queen, thanks to her historic seven decades on the throne, she did in fact remain an enigma to much of the public, taking great care to hide her personal views and her famous sense of humour in favour of a polished display of refined dignity. Over recent years, however, there have been several documentaries about the Queen that have managed to delve a little deeper, offering a glimpse into the real woman beneath the crown. From cherished moments with her family to her coronation and a collaboration with David Attenborough, these are the best documentaries about Queen Elizabeth II to watch now.

Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts

Directed by the veteran British director Roger Michell – the man behind Notting Hill – in what was to be his last film, this feature-length documentary was released earlier this year in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Following the ups and downs of her historic 70-year reign, the film charts everything from her wedding day and dazzling coronation to her numerous royal tours, as well as examining the dark days following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and some of the scandals that the family has faced since, including those surrounding Prince Andrew. Nostalgic and uplifting, there are also some deeply human – and often funny – moments, such as when she cries out in pain as one of her little grandchildren stands on her foot. A fitting tribute to the longest reigning monarch Britain has ever seen.

Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen

Narrated by the Queen herself, this BBC documentary is made up of a series of remarkable never-before-seen home movies filmed by members of the Royal Family as well as the late monarch. It offers up an unparalleled glimpse into the life of the Windsors behind closed doors, including shots of the Queen as a baby being pushed in a pram by her mother, playing with her younger sister, Margaret, and proudly showing the camera her ring before her engagement to Prince Philip had even been made public. Interspersed with newsreel footage that encompasses everything from her coronation to the Aberfan disaster, and using audio taken from a range of speeches given over the course of the Queen’s reign, this is the closest we’ll get to hearing Her Majesty’s story in her own words.

The Queen’s Coronation in Colour

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Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, 2 June 1953

The Queen’s coronation in 1953 was the first ever national television event, and while it originally aired in black and white, it has been cleverly remastered for this film to appear in glorious technicolour. Presented by Alexander Armstrong, who explores the pageantry that went into the occasion, it features interviews with some of those who took part, including a marvellous anecdote from the maids of honour who had to stop one of their members from fainting during the ceremony – they recall how the Archbishop of Canterbury later helped revive her by giving her a swig of brandy in the vestry. Combined with more relaxed behind-the-scenes footage that was commissioned by the young Queen herself, the film brings this historic event vividly to life.

Elizabeth at 90: A Family Tribute

Released by the BBC in 2016 to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, this deeply personal documentary features the late monarch with her children and grandchildren as they sit together in Buckingham Palace to watch archival footage together. Directed by award-winning filmmaker John Bridcut and narrated by King Charles III, it is a poignant watch that sees the family swapping stories, reminiscing and frequently bursting into laughter – the warmth between William and Harry is particularly touching to see. With footage of everything from the funeral procession of the Queen’s father, George V, and state tours to afternoons spent rolling down hills in Balmoral, it makes for emotive viewing.

Elizabeth R – A Year in the Life of the Queen

Though this documentary about the Queen was first broadcast on the BBC in 1992, it remains a relevant and captivating watch, largely due to the fact that its camera crews were granted such unprecedented access. They were given the rare opportunity to follow the Queen over the course of a year in 1990 and 1991, capturing private moments and offering insights into the role she played away from the public eye. Featuring a voiceover from the Queen herself – in markedly less formal tones than she usually uses – it features candid shots of her chatting and joking with Nelson Mandela and being teased by her mother as they watch the Epsom Derby. An eye-opening and heart-warming watch.

The Queen’s Green Planet

Two of the world’s most beloved nonagenarians came together for this documentary, where David Attenborough met with the Queen in the grounds of Buckingham Palace to discuss her plans to create “the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy”, a network of national forest parks from each of the 53 commonwealth nations worldwide that formed a key part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations. First released in 2018, watching these two revered figures converse together makes for charming viewing, and offers a reminder of the Queen’s dedication and devotion to conservation – no doubt a cause that the eco-minded King Charles will be carrying into his own reign.

Queen of the World

This two-part documentary, which first aired on HBO in 2018, offers up a more global view of the late monarch and the Royal Family, and gives an insight into how they are viewed overseas. Filmed over more than a year, the crews were granted privileged access to the royals, capturing the Queen’s meeting with the 52 representatives of the Commonwealth nations at CHOGM 2018 and exploring her impact on the global stage, as well as the legacy she was preparing to pass on to the younger members of the family. The film also coincides with the recent arrival of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, into the family, which makes it one of the most compelling documentaries about the Queen.

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