A decades-old documentary about the British royal family which Queen Elizabeth II did not want anyone to see recently reappeared on the internet. The 90-minute footage was swiftly taken down, but had already been watched by many by that time.

Although the members of the British royal family are public figures, they live rather private lives. It was a historic moment when Buckingham Palace opened its gates to a BBC camera crew 52 years ago, to film their lives like a reality TV show. However, it did not go as well as the family expected.

The crew filmed the family going about their daily routines for several months, ending up with 43 hours of footage. The team even followed the queen to her foreign tours, as well as her other residences including Windsor Castle and Balmoral Castle. The documentary finally aired on June 21, 1969, with the title "Royal Family," receiving mixed reviews.

However, the queen soon relegated the film to the royal archives, meaning one needed her permission to see it. Her decision practically banned the film from ever being viewed again in its entirety.

The film was eventually forgotten but gained renewed interest last year after an episode of season three of the hit Netflix series "The Crown" focused on its making. The drama about Queen Elizabeth II's reign which has been fictionalised to a certain extent showed that the documentary was Prince Philip's idea.

According to "The Crown," the Duke of Edinburgh wanted to answer the criticism about how much the royal family spends on its lifestyle, by showing that they live a modest life. However, it ended up inviting even more criticism, following which the queen decided to ban it.

On the public record, the film was criticised by some for trivialising the family, and Sir David Attenborough went as far as to say that the documentary was "killing the monarchy."

It is also said that Prince Philip had advocated for the documentary because he wanted to bring the royal family into the modern era, hoping to reinstate people's interest in the monarchy. The Duke is also credited for televising the coronation of his wife as the Queen of England despite much opposition.

After the documentary resurfaced, a royal expert had suggested that the royal family should release it officially instead of taking legal action to hide it again. Historian Marlene Koenig of Royal Musings said: "I don't see anything wrong with this documentary. It's very much like the more recent documentaries following The Queen for a year with one major difference. The other two documentaries broadcast for Her Majesty's Ruby and Diamond Jubilees were focused on her role as the sovereign and her duties – with little focus on her family or family life."

Though the footage has been taken down, it is likely that it was already downloaded many times over. It is unknown how the footage made its way online, reports Royal Central.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Photo: AFP / Fiona HANSON