To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, we present a programme of classic newsreels and shorts from the BFI National Archive following Elizabeth II on royal duty at home and in more exotic locations abroad. (UK approx. 85 minutes)
Watch an extract from Sierra Leone Greets the Queen (1962)
From Iran's atomic research facility to a whaler off the Falkland Islands, the state visits of the 50s and 60s took the Queen and her family to some of the world's most extraordinary places. And wherever the royals went, the official camera teams were on duty. Now those film reels have been uncovered.
“Forgotten footage of royal tours abroad in the 1950s and 60s reveals the sheer glamour of the Queen's travelling wardrobe, in an era when she rivalled film stars such as Elizabeth Taylor as the world's most photographed woman.
Films made by the Central Office of Information (COI) for screening in cinemas overseas show the young monarch in sables and furs and bare-armed in dramatic satin dresses with elbow-length silk gloves or long, gauzy jackets.
More than four hours of film, released this week by the British Film Institute (BFI), overturns the perception of the Queen's fashion sense as staidly sensible. Instead, a taste for bold and sometimes breathtaking colours is revealed, from flamingo pink to electric blue – a Hollywood wardrobe to match the style of more sensational post-war royals such as Princess Grace of Monaco or Queen Farah of Iran.
Equally striking to modern viewers is the apparent absence of any security precautions, in the years before the assassination of John F Kennedy. In Pakistan, barely a decade after the turbulent transition to independence from empire, the Queen stands and waves from an open-top car as crowds throng around her just metres away.
The footage also records Prince Philip's astonishing, early voyage aboard the royal yacht Britannia to the Antarctic and the south Atlantic, as well as following a young Princess Margaret on a tour of Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau uprising.
... The voiceover for the Iranian visit is careful to give the Shah his full imperial title, the Shahanshah or king of kings. It is his wife, the 23-year-old queen consort Farah, who steals the film, however, trailing white furs over a diamond-encrusted dress at an embassy party hosted by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, where traditional British dishes had been flown out from London kitchens.
That tour also took in India, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and Pakistan, where the Queen was invited to inspect the plans for an almost empty landscape that would become the new capital city, Islamabad. She also watched displays of horsemanship, with tribesmen demonstrating the cavalry sport of tent-pegging, skewering wooden sticks with a lance at full gallop.
In a week-long visit to Sierra Leone later that year, the royal couple toured the diamond diggings at Hangha, toured Freetown and saw the Guma Dam, in a country which had declared independence just eight months earlier. The influence of empire is still heavy – at a "children's rally" for example, the boys had boaters and blazers, while the girls wore gymslips.
... The most extraordinary footage, though, features the Duke of Edinburgh in the Falklands, first boarding a whaler by a basket on a rope and pulley, and later touring a factory ship where he watches the flensing of a whale carcass. As immense strips of blubber are cut away, Prince Philip earnestly questions his guides; the narrator comments that the duke stowed away information for a future lecture tour, including the fact that the whale's tongue weighed three tonnes...” read more
RUNNING TIME approx. 85 minutes
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