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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s new six-part Netflix docuseries explores the “span of their relationship” that began in 2016. But this isn’t the first time that members of the royal family have allowed cameras to film their everyday lives. Back in the 1950s, the late Prince Philip modernized the monarchy by putting the royals on TV. The family even recorded a BBC documentary where fans got an unprecedented look inside the palace.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | Courtesy of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Queen Elizabeth made her TV debut long before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Netflix series

When the late Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in the summer of 1953, Prince Philip embraced modern media and new technology by insisting the coronation be broadcast on TV. Elizabeth had inherited an old-fashioned monarchy from her father that was “slightly invisible,” explained historian Sarah Gristwood, per Insider. But Philip wanted the royal family to engage more with the British public.

Both royal family members and the government balked at the idea — including Prime Minister Winston Churchill. But as the chair of Elizabeth’s coronation commission, Philip ensured the coronation was broadcast live. 

After it was announced that the coronation would be televised, sales for TV sets skyrocketed. More than 27 million people across the UK watched the event live, along with millions across the globe. 

The Duke and Duchess of Susssex aren’t the first royals to allow cameras inside their everyday lives

The coronation ended up being a wild success, which meant the royal family would continue to use television as a way to connect with average British citizens. The queen started delivering her annual Christmas address on TV in 1957, and Philip was the first royal to participate in a TV interview in 1961.

A few years later, Philip actually allowed cameras inside the royal family’s everyday lives at the palace when he agreed to be filmed for a behind-the-scenes BBC documentary. The hope was that the two-hour film would show the queen’s personality and humanize the royal family.

Cameras followed their daily lives over 18 months in 1968 and 1969, and the doc included scenes like Philip barbecuing sausages at Balmoral Castle. It was well-received by both fans and critics when it aired in June 1969. However, just three years later in 1972, Buckingham Palace barred it from broadcast and put it in the royal archives due to the film causing increased tabloid interest.

King Charles III could strip Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of their titles

Harry and Meghan’s new series is nothing like the royal family BBC documentary from more than 50 years ago. In the trailer, the former senior working royals talk about the troubles the tabloids caused in their relationship, the royal family hierarchy, and the rumors about drama with their own family members. 

According to Stylecaster, the royal family is trying to push back on Harry and Meghan’s claims with “a completely united front.” King Charles has attempted privately to make peace with his youngest son, but Harry and Meghan continue to “air their repeated grievances with the world.”


Prince Charles Warned Meghan Markle and Prince Harry About This 1 Thing Before Leaving the Royal Family

“The titles, the charities and whatnot—there’s a lot left that Charles could do to punish Harry again,” warned royal expert Christopher Anderson.

Part one of Harry & Meghan is now playing on Netflix.