The Queen & I

Monday, 28 May 2012, 8:00PM – 8:30PM

“It always amazes me about the Queen, how interested and amused she is on these public occasions. She still manages to give the impression that this is a really special occasion for her, as well as for those admiring her.”
Denis Tomlin – Former Teacher, Solihull School

For 60 years, the Queen’s reign has been recorded, not just by news cameras, but in thousands of home movies shot by ordinary members of the public. For decades many of these amateur films have remained unseen in attics, cine club collections and film archives.

Put together, these amateur movies provide a unique and often surprising portrait of an ever-changing Britain and our Queen. In episode one, we meet some of the people whose brush with royalty was caught on film.

On 23rd March 2012, the Queen and Prince Phillip were in Manchester for the second day of The Diamond Jubilee Tour, and the streets were lined with well wishers. It was also a big day for John Canning and his fiancée Frances who were getting married at Manchester Town Hall. When John found out that the Queen was due to visit on the day of their wedding, he wrote to Buckingham Palace to see if the she would care to join their guest list.

John remembers: “We’re northerners, we’re friendly folk. I just thought I’d write her a letter to wish her all the best for the jubilee. I said, ‘If you get any time feel free to knock on and we can always find a couple of chairs.’”

But on the day itself, as the Cannings exchanged their vows, they had no idea that Palace officials had arranged for the Queen to pay them a surprise visit.

John says: “Frances had a panic attack as she didn’t know how to curtsey properly but then again who does? How many people have ever had a Queen come to their wedding? It is something that just doesn’t happen. That’s got to be the ultimate fairy tale for me.”

In the 1950’s the Queen’s royal visits brought her closer to her subjects than any monarch before. As well as meeting dignitaries, she was determined to meet “ordinary folk” too.

Social Historian, Kate Williams says: “Elizabeth really brought in the idea of the notion that you have to see the royal, that they have to travel, that it’s their job to be out there, meeting the people. Winston Churchill said that you couldn’t have found a film star to do the Queen’s role better and that’s exactly what she was. She was to them, their film star.”

It wasn’t unheard of for the new monarch to call in on a local family for a cup of tea and a tour of their home. Mike Inglis was only two years old when the Queen came round for tea. His late parents would tell stories of that day for years to come.

Mike says: “My mother literally cleaned the house from top to bottom, every single room. It was spotless. She (the Queen) walked all round the house, upstairs, downstairs, into the kitchen. There was a sink with a curtain around it. Prince Phillip walked in and looked underneath the sink and pulled the curtain round. I don’t know what he was expecting to find under there but there was nothing except the drain.”

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1