This June will mark 65 years since Queen Elizabeth II officially came into power, and a new documentary will give viewers an inside look at the woman with whom they've always been fascinated from afar. The Coronation, a documentary produced in collaboration with the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the Smithsonian Channel, will air on the Smithsonian Channel Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. The hour-long special will feature Queen Elizabeth II speaking publicly about her coronation ceremony for the very first time. If you're an avid follower of the royal family, you need to see The Coronation.
In the documentary, royal expert Alastair Bruce sits down with Queen Elizabeth to discuss her recollection of the ceremony in The Coronation, and spoke with Bustle about the process. "Nobody knows this better than the Queen," he says, talking over the phone about what it was like to relive the memories of that day with Her Majesty. "She went through her own coronation 65 years ago, and her memories are better than anything anyone may have written down, may try and presume, or anything like that. And, she couldn't have been more lovely. She was very delightful. She brought with her a sense of frankness and a beautiful sense of humor, which she is well-known for, although perhaps [it's] not seen very often."
Bruce says that not only is this the first time Queen Elizabeth has offered her thoughts and memories about the historic occasion, but it's also the only time that any monarch has ever spoken publicly about the events of their own coronation. She had a lot to say, he says, and it seems likely that it will give viewers a new appreciation for the gravity of the situation the young monarch stepped into. "Her memories are extensive, really. What is really quite special is that she reflects upon it with great sense of what the importance of that day was," he says. "I think it must have placed quite a burden on her. She was 27. I would think it's important to try and bear in mind a 27 year old that you know, and imagine that person going through it with the whole world and cameras watching."
While Bruce is eager for the audience to enjoy hearing the Queen's memories, The Coronation will also offer the unique opportunity to observe the legendary Crown Jewels in a way that's never before been done. It's the first time the royal heirlooms have been in such a spotlight on film, captured in such close proximity and with such detail. "They carry so much history and prominence. The fact that the Queen herself interacts with them is exceptional," he says. "This is a very remarkable occasion in television because the Queen doesn't talk publicly, and yet she has chosen to, because I think she sees the value of these symbols to the realm. And it's a realm she has served all her life. I think that she recognizes that because we haven't had a coronation for 65 years, people have forgotten what all these things mean."
It's worth noting that although it's been decades upon decades since she took the throne, the world is still endlessly intrigued by Queen Elizabeth, and Bruce says that's because she is a unique example of living, breathing history. "I think it's because Shakespeare wrote about her ancestors. I think it's because she's the real thing," he says when I ask why the fascination endures. He notes that some of the most famous names which we read about in books are actually the Queen's own flesh and blood, rooting her to events of the past in a way that we rarely see. "She descends from so much reality and history that many people in America maybe share, and in addition to that, she's been quite exceptional at carrying out her duties," he continues. "A stoic, quiet and slightly archaic figure. We genuinely don't know what she thinks about much, and I think that adds to why this is really special as a film."
Interest in the monarchy has endured and evolved as Prince Harry and Prince William have begun to carry out their duties in the public eye. While it can be easy to get swept up in their personal lives without necessarily linking it back to the monarchy as an institution, Bruce says even their behavior, at its core, circles back to the importance of the Queen's coronation. "In the end, what William and Harry are doing is serving the Queen, who is serving the nation through the obligations that she made at the coronation. And that is what the crown represents, so in a sense one does this complete circle," he says. "The Crown Jewels are very much a heart and symbol of what the monarchy is about, and William and Harry and their generation, I think, are of interest because of the way they've chosen to dedicate themselves to try and serve."
In addition to also having interest in the Queen's family, audiences have been delighted for years by dramatized movies and television shows about the royal family — Netflix's The Crown is just the latest in an endless string of productions drawing upon the monarch's long and interesting reign. But The Coronation, Bruce says, is different. "In a way, [those dramatizations] are all very delightful things and they're all very admirable projects in their own way, but this is real," he says. "This is the Queen talking about the real Crown Jewels — the real Queen, talking about the real Crown Jewels. There's nothing made up here — there's no slight of pen, no character authored. This is the Queen."
When The Coronation airs, it will bring with it an experience viewers shouldn't take for granted — the inner thoughts of Queen Elizabeth are not often on display for the public to soak in. These important glimpses of history are an opportunity to further our appreciation for the dedicated sovereign, and the immense obligation to which she has dedicated her entire life.