Extraordinary footage has revealed the coronation of King George VI and childhood videos of his daughter Elizabeth – the future Queen – in colour for the first time.
The fascinating clips include some taken just after George moved into Buckingham Palace in London in 1937, showing him as a happy family man after becoming king.
Cameras film the family, including his wife Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and their daughters Princess Margaret, then six, and Princess Elizabeth, then ten.
Princess Margaret, then six, and Princess Elizabeth (facing the camera), then ten, play a ball game together at Buckingham Palace in London in 1937
King George VI is filmed with his wife Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and their daughters Margaret and Elizabeth, the latter of whom was his heir and is now Queen Elizabeth II
The series reveals the earliest known original colour footage of the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, playing in a Piccadilly garden in London with her sister Princess Margaret
The children are seen feeding ducks and playing with a ball in the videos, from new documentary Britain In Colour which begins on the Smithsonian Channel tonight.
George, known as the ‘reluctant king’ after being crowned following his brother Edward VIII’s abdication, called his family ‘Us Four’ because they were so close-knit.
While he was known for his stammer and being unprepared, George did have the advantage over Edward of a happy family life – as shown to the public in the video.
Stunning videos of the coronation show the ceremony at Westminster Abbey in May 1937 – and the huge crowds that gathered for a carriage procession outside.
One month after the coronation, Edward VIII controversially married American socialite divorcee Wallis Simpson at the Château de Candé in Monts, France.
The children are seen feeding ducks and playing with a ball in the video at Buckingham Palace
George VI had the advantage over his brother Edward VIII of a happy family life – as shown to the public in the video which was filmed shortly after they moved into Buckingham Palace
The family feed the ducks at Buckingham Palace shortly after moving into the residence
It threw the monarchy into crisis, because the Church of England at that time did not allow divorced people to marry, and Edward was the Head of the Church.
When Edward chose his love for Wallis over the Crown, George named them the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but refused her the title Her Royal Highness.
This meant Wallis, who wore a special kind of blue at her wedding dubbed Wallis Blue by its dressmaker, was not officially recognised as a Royal Family member.
Not one member of the Royal Family attended the ceremony, which came amid a backdrop of political tension two years before the Second World War began.
A colourised video of the coronation of George VI at Westminster Abbey in May 1937
George VI was known as the ‘reluctant king’ after being crowned following his brother Edward VIII’s abdication
The crown is placed on the head of George VI during the ceremony at Westminster Abbey
Huge crowds gathered for a carriage procession outside Westminster Abbey in May 1937
The damaged public view of Edward descended further that year when he defied government advice to go on a semi-official unsanctioned visit to Nazi Germany.
Video shows Robert Ley, one of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle who headed the German Labour Front from 1933 to 1945, meeting the couple at a train station in Berlin.
The couple attended a concert and inspected a squad of SS Stormtroopers, with a photograph showing how Hitler even invited them to his private mountain retreat.
The trip was a huge embarrassment to the Royal Family and government, and Edward was never able to shake off accusations that he was a Nazi sympathiser.
Huge crowds gather outside Westminster Abbey in 1937 for the carriage procession
The carriage is driven through the streets of London as well-wishers watch on in 1937
George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on the Buckingham Palace balcony
The procession makes its way around Trafalgar Square after the ceremony in London in 1937
However, during the war George soared in popularity when he chose to stay in London with his subjects as bombs rained down on the capital in the Blitz.
George died of ill health in 1952, leaving his daughter Elizabeth, 25, to take over as Queen in a spell that has seen her become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
The coronation of the young, glamorous monarch in 1953 heralded a new optimistic age following a ceremony which was broadcast live to the world for the first time.
Also featured in the new documentary is stunning colourised video produced from the earliest existing footage of Queen Victoria.
Another royal featured in Britain In Colour is Edward VIII who throws the monarchy into crisis when he decides in 1937 to wed the married American Wallis Simpson
Edward and Wallis Simpson attended a concert and inspected a squad of SS Stormtroopers, with a photo showing how Hitler even invited them to his private mountain retreat
The damaged public view of Edward VIII descended further that year when he defied government advice to go on a semi-official unsanctioned visit to Nazi Germany
Video shows Robert Ley, one of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle who headed the German Labour Front from 1933 to 1945, meeting Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson at a train station in Berlin
The series also reveals the earliest known original colour footage of the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, playing in a Piccadilly garden in London with her sister Margaret.
The three-part series, which begins at 8pm tonight, will also look at the British Empire and Winston Churchill in its later episodes.
Episode one on royalty offers glimpses into the Royal Family around 120 years ago, including the uniformed procession at Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901.
Victoria had continued to mourn her husband Prince Albert despite his death in 1861 and shut herself away from the world – making the monarchy unpopular at the time.
The new series Britain In Colour features the earliest known footage of Victoria – who was seen as distant and remote towards the end of her reign – being driven in a carriage
The footage of Victoria dates back to shortly before her death in 1901. She had continued to mourn her husband Albert despite his death in 1861 and shut herself away from the world
Victoria’s son Edward VII (pictured) then succeeded in 1901 and realised the importance of the theatre and spectacle of royalty in making monarch loved by their subjects.
Her son Edward VII then succeeded in 1901 and realised the importance of the theatre and spectacle of royalty in making monarch loved by their subjects.
The documentary looks at his short reign of only nine years, before his son George V steered the monarchy through the First World War from 1914 to 1918.
When Britain went to war with Germany, it was ruled by George’s first cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II – and George therefore decided to sever his German roots.
Amid anti-German sentiment, he changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the more British sounding House of Windsor, which it retains today.
Princess Elizabeth gives a speech on her 21st birthday in April 1947. In it, she said: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service’
Elizabeth pictured with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh took over as Queen aged just 25 in a spell that has seen her become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch
The programme, narrated by Stephen Mangan, evokes memories of the First World War documentary They Shall Not Grow Old released in November 2018
Smithsonian said: ‘Today the Royal Family is one of Britain’s best loved institutions but in the early 20th century they have to fight for their popularity and survival.
‘Rare film, seen in colour for the first time, tells the story of how House of Windsor nearly fell and how they brought the monarchy back from the brink of disaster.’
The programme, narrated by Stephen Mangan, evokes memories of the First World Wart documentary They Shall Not Grow Old released in November 2018.
That work by filmmaker Peter Jackson colourised archive footage from the front line and used lip readers to establish what the soldiers in the trenches were saying.
Britain In Colour is a new three-part series airing from tonight at 8pm on the Smithsonian Channel (Freeview 99 , Freesat 175 , Sky 195 and Virgin Media 295)