To mark the Diamond Jubilee, the British Council has released two online films showing its patron the Queen as a young Princess, which have been unseen for 50 years.
Royal Road (1941) is an incredible behind-the-scenes glimpse of life in the Royal Household, with beautiful pictures of the young Princess Elizabeth in the gardens of Windsor Castle with her family and pet corgis. King George VI took a personal interest in the making of the film.
Westminster Abbey (1945) is a tour of the historic Abbey, including footage of Princess Elizabeth looking on with the rest of the Royal Family as her father, King George VI, is crowned. The film took three years to make, due to the difficulty of filming in the Abbey during wartime – as many of the monuments had been removed.
The films are from the British Council’s own film archive which dates back to late 1939. 80 of the films were made available online at the beginning of May 2012, and have been viewed more than 360,000 times since the Collection was launched. The two films released today are new additions to the Collection.
The films give an insight not only into a bygone age, but also serve to capture how cultural relations has changed. For several decades, the Council was an enthusiastic commissioner and distributor of documentaries, designed to showcase Britain to the outside world and promote democratic values at a time when fascism was spreading across Europe. The films were largely shown at embassies, consulates and to students and schoolchildren around the world.
Many of the films are the work of talented filmmakers who went on to carve out hugely successful careers in the film industry. For the last thirty years this remarkable collection of films has been preserved in the BFI National Archive yet rarely shown. The films are now available to the public to stream and download for the first time at film.britishcouncil.org, thanks to funding from Google.
Today, the British Council’s cultural relations mission is somewhat different. It operates in over 100 countries worldwide. Work includes English, education and cultural projects designed to build trust and mutually beneficial relationships in places where the UK divides opinion - such as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Burma - and engagement with emerging markets such as India and China. Working in the Arts, English, Education and Society, last year the British Council engaged face to face with 18.4 million people and reached 652 million.
The films have been digitised by Time/Image, an archive agency that grew out of work placements organised at the British Council by New Deal of the Mind as part of the Digital Domesday project.
Briony Hanson, the British Council’s Director of Film, said: “The Collection is proving to be a treasure trove of British history that’s enthralling viewers the world over. We are delighted to be able to offer these special films complete with some candid, intimate views of the Royal Family, for viewers to enjoy for the first time in 50 years. Crucially, as with the whole Collection, we’ve made them available to download with a ‘Creative Commons’ licence, and we very much encourage viewers to use the films to spark their own creative ideas – perhaps even adding in their own Jubilee images.”
For more information, contact Mark Moulding in the British Council Press Office on +44 (0)207 389 4889
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