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The First Royal Family Members Caught On Film: See Queen Victoria In 1896!

The First Royal Family Member Caught On Film: See Queen Victoria In 1896!
June 1, 2020 - 09:35 / Lucas Anderson

Queen Victoria was nearing the end of her reign when motion picture film was invented in the 1890s. Check out the incredible footage of her and other royal family members in their 1896 film debut!

The earliest-surviving experiments with film date back to 1888, though the birth of cinema is typically dated to 1895. Just one year later, in 1896, several members of the British royal family made their first appearances in some short actuality footage.

It's thought that the title of the first royal family member caught on film actually belongs to King Edward VII, while he was still the Prince of Wales in 1896. He was reportedly filmed during a visit to the Cardiff Exhibition in June 1896, but the footage isn't available online.

But, not too long after, Edward's mother, Queen Victoria, and several other family members made their film debuts at Balmoral on Oct. 3, 1896. John Downey, the son of royal photographer William Downey, shot the footage, which runs for just over one minute.

Watch the royals out for an afternoon stroll in 1896 below.

"Scenes at Balmoral" - Queen Victoria's first film (1896)

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The above footage, provided by the BFI, was restored with its original yellow or amber tinting, which would've been applied to the initial black and white film. This type of tinting was meant to signify daylight.

Other royal family members who appear in the film include Victoria's children Prince Arthur, Princess Helena, and Princess Beatrice.

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna (the Queen's granddaughter) are also seen in the film, as are royal pets—the Queen's beloved dog Turi is seen in her lap on the pony cart.

The First Royal Family Member Caught On Film: See Queen Victoria In 1896!

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Queen Victoria wrote about her first experiences with film

According to the BFI, Queen Victoria wrote in her journal both on the day she was filmed and when she took in a viewing of her family's footage.

"We all were photographed by Downey by the new cinematograph process, which makes moving pictures by winding off a reel of films," she wrote on Oct. 3, 1896. "We were walking up and down, and the children jumping about."

Upon seeing "Scenes at Balmoral," the Queen wrote: 

"After tea went to the Red drawing-room, where so-called 'animated pictures' were shown off including the groups taken… at Balmoral. It is a very wonderful process, representing people their movements and actions as if they were alive."

The Queen would've been 77-years-old in the footage. She'd later die in 1901, when King Edward VII—the first true royal caught on film—began his reign.