Elizabeth at 90 – A Family Tribute

2016   BBC One

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For this portrait to mark her 90th birthday, The Queen kindly allowed John Bridcut to explore the full extent of her private ciné film collection for the first time.  Most of it was shot by The Queen herself or The Duke of Edinburgh, and some by her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

She then generously agreed to be filmed watching some of this footage, and discussing the memories it triggered – along with several other members of the Royal Family.  Taking part are The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, The Princess Royal, The Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra, Lady Sarah Chatto and Mrs Margaret Rhodes.

This film, in its extended feature-length version, can now be purchased on DVD for the sale price of £8.50 on this website.



Photography Jonathan Partridge, Vaughan Matthews, Colin Rogal
Sound Recordists Paul Paragon, Patrick Boland, Dave Holmes
Composer Edmund Jolliffe
Production Co-ordinator Rowan Moss
Production Managers Amy Gostling, Fay Thompson
Archive Research Alex Cowan
Executive Producer Simon Berthon
Film Editor Paul van Dyck
Additional Editing Colin Napthine, Holly Bridcut
Written, Produced and Directed by John Bridcut
A Crux production for BBC One (90')


'The Royal family show their private face to the public

'Let’s be honest, some royal documentaries are better than others, and over the last few decades there have been occasions when watching could feel more of a duty than a pleasure.  Happily Elizabeth at 90 – A Family Tribute was a triumph from start to finish.  I cannot recall ever seeing a more charming, warm and – dare I say ­– human portrait of the Queen than this one lovingly pieced together from the Royal family’s own private archive of film taken over the last 90 years.

'As a documentary it hooked from the outset with the strains of a sumptuous Elgar composition written in honour of the five-year-old Princess Elizabeth playing out over a beautiful sequence of never-before-broadcast images of the Queen at various stages of her life and reign [...]

'“The entire collection [of film]”, said Prince Charles, “provides a wonderful insight into my Mama’s long life”.  It certainly did, especially when spliced together so skilfully by director John Bridcut, whose selection was nothing short of superb. […]  That was the beauty of this film.  For once, it succeeded in blurring the boundary between public formality and private emotion as we saw warm smiles and flashes of delighted recognition flicker across the faces of the Queen, Princess Anne, the Duke of Kent and others at seeing happy past times.

'The result was a documentary that brilliantly sampled a full 90 years of a life both intensely public and guardedly private.  A film that felt less like a tribute and more like a private view, and one you really didn’t need to be a bonkers-mad Royalist to enjoy.'

Gerard O’Donovan, The Daily Telegraph

'The home video tribute that is fit for a Queen.  *****

'The structure of the documentary was akin to a bran tub at a school fete but every dip pulled out a prize.  It was also Gogglebox.  The commentary of the sofa-sitters before the flickering screens made it.  For a family publicly susceptible to permafrost, the old movies cut an awful lot of ice and revealed an awful lot of character….

'There they were watching the movies, when Charles turned to his left and lo, his mama had joined the Gogglebox couch.  The Queen was remarkable.  She remembered every place, every name, every date.  It was not a house; it was a hotel.  The dog was called Susan.  That would have been 1937…

'There was so much laughter in the programme’s 70 minutes that you could mistake a life of duty for the life of Riley.  What a thoughtful present this compilation was from the BBC, like getting your gran’s VHS tapes on to DVD – except, of course, the celluloid was hers, and it was her gift to us, and it was perfect.'

Andrew Billen, The Times

'Watching home movies with the Queen – it’s like a royal Gogglebox

'Fascinating because, whatever you think of them, this family does have a place in the history of this country.  In some ways, as her eldest son says, the birthday girl’s life has defined our age.  Plus, it is a rare glimpse behind high walls, at the private life of a family that is nothing like anyone else’s.  And yes, some of it is touching, such as the young Elizabeth, unburdened by her destiny, singing happily with her younger sister.' 

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

'Those who know John Bridcut's superb films on Britten, Vaughan Williams and Elgar can guess that the regal birthday documentary will have both style and substance'

Financial Times

'There is always a problem with films about the royal family. Either they are sycophantic to the point of tedium or they go in for tabloid-style scandal mongering. This is where the director John Bridcut comes in. His award-winning films in the past have included Britten’s Children and Elgar: The Man Behind The Mask, but on special occasions he moonlights for the Royal Family in exchange for a butt of sherry. Perhaps the best of all was his film The Prince And The Composer, in which Prince Charles championed the composer Hubert Parry (1848-1918) who wrote Jerusalem. On this occasion, the Queen and Prince Philip gave Bridcut access to their private home movies. Most of the films were shot at Balmoral, Sandringham and Windsor before she became Queen, and – like most people who shoot film or video of their families – the footage dries up when the children become teenagers. The earliest dates back to 1927 when the Princess Elizabeth was a one-year-old, shot by King George VI and the Queen Mother. But here’s the really clever bit. Using a benign variation of the trick first used by that wicked Michael Cockerell (and later adopted by Gogglebox), Bridcut filmed the reactions of members of the royal family –  including Princess Anne, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry – as they watched the movies, some of which they had never seen before. People watching home movies tend to be relaxed and unguarded, while the movies themselves are skilfully filmed, frequently touching and weirdly normal. It is very much a family affair, unencumbered by the great and good trotting out platitudes.'

David Chater, The Times

'Director John Bridcut has splendid documentaries on British composers to his credit and, to show he can face tough questions, was series producer of Europe: Them or Us, so we can hope for something more enlightening than genuflexion'

Martin Hoyle, Financial Times

By JANEITE on 22 Jun. 2016
This DVD is producer John Bridcut's 2nd mining of the Royal Family's home movie collection to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday - the previous being to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

The images are of the private life of the royals and, uniquely, this time the Queen herself is providing narrative of past, happy times. The DVD reinforces the sense of the first one in that, behind the scenes, the royals share family life and values similar to those of their subjects.

Other members of the family watch clips and comment on them, but the most compelling in my view was the reaction of Lady Sarah Chatto niece to the Queen, being the daughter of Princess Margaret. The wee girl looked as though she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, but as the grainy clips of the sisters flickered across the screen her whole face lit up with pure joy at the sisters closeness depicted in the home movies. Clearly, the girl still misses her Mum.

Although the nearest most of us will get to the Queen is handling coin of the realm, this DVD provides evidence that were they to nip round for a cup of tea or borrow some sugar, we would have more in common than might be supposed from the tabloids headlines. Loved it.


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