The Royal Family: The Business of the Monarchy

For the first time, cameras capture a year in the life of British royalty.

Mar. 3, 2008 2008— -- The British royal family has a very private personal life but a very public profile. The queen and family members follow a heavy schedule of activities that range from the charitable to the commercial.

In the documentary "The Royal Family," anchored by Barbara Walters, ABC News offers a never-before-seen glimpse at the most famous royalty in the world -- the royal family of Great Britain.

From Queen Elizabeth II to Prince William and Prince Harry, the documentary crew from RDF USA filmed the British monarchy for more than a year, and was given unprecedented access to the working monarchy and its private spaces.

Culled from hundreds of hours of footage of the queen and her family in both public and private settings, this special marks the first time in the history of the British monarchy that anyone has been allowed such access.

On one occasion last year, the Royal Train traveled deep into the English countryside, bound for Newcastle, with Prince Charles and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, onboard.

In Newcastle, the Prince and his wife stopped at a hospital and school, then went by helicopter to a farming community. They visited an organic farm -- one of Prince Charles' main interests -- and met with farmers at a nearby pub

. "One day I get a tap on the window," said pub owner Tim Morris, describing a surprise visit from a member of the palace staff. "There was no appointment, nothing like that, just a very officious lady, and she comes waltzing in and she starts looking around ... and she says, 'Oh it's not very big is it?' And I sort of [said], 'Sorry, we're just a tiny drovers inn.' And then we went outside and I showed her the beer garden, and I said, you know, the views of the National Park, and she said, 'Oh, that's wonderful,' she said, 'That's where we can put the helicopter.'"

The royal couple also visited the farm of Colin and Michelle Anderson. "How on earth we got to this day, I do not know," Colin Anderson said.

"That's Charles and Camilla in our field," Michelle Anderson said, shaking her head in wonder as the two arrived.

"Have you turned on the weather specially?" the duchess said.

"I bet it was lovely coming across in the helicopter as well, was it?" Michelle Anderson said.

"Oh it was," the duchess replied. "We got the most amazing views."

"There was a story behind these two," Colin Anderson said, introducing the prince and his wife to two of his livestock. "The week that you two were getting married, these two were born, and the Aberdeen Angus Society told us that they had to begin with the letter C. So they are Charles and Camilla."

"It's really nice to meet people like that who appreciate what we are doing here, basically," Michelle Anderson said.

Reflecting on the trip, Prince Charles said, "I enjoy people, and meeting them and seeing what's going on, and finding out how they're managing, and what the, you know, the local situation is."

Life in the Public Eye

The younger members of the royal family also keep busy public schedules. At 6 a.m. one summer day in London, Prince William -- second in line to the throne behind Charles -- was on the move. He was en route to a homeless shelter, which he supports as a patron.

Prince William's celebrity means that he can raise large amounts for the charities he supports. This particular shelter is one of four charities in which Prince William is active, and his informal style is anything but regal.

"Does Centrepoint try and look for you, to help you get another job?" he asked Stuart Cox, who used to be homeless and was helped by the shelter. "In terms of life and happiness, it's OK?"

"Yeah. It's really good, yeah," Cox said.

"You've got a house, have you?" the Prince asked.

"I've got a one-bedroom flat in southeast London," Cox replied.

William's younger brother, Prince Harry, has made his own move into the world of charities. He helped set up an organization to aid orphans and other vulnerable children in the South African kingdom of Lesotho.

The young princes are just starting their moves into the public eye. Their uncles and aunts -- Prince Charles' siblings -- have been at it for years, but they don't forget their own beginnings.

"Just occasionally you remember with a sort of cold sweat how awful you were when you started, and how cross everything you said seemed to be," recalled Princess Anne. "So I think, I rather hope, that I may have improved."

"It's probably changed from sheer terror to just being sort of mildly nervous," Prince Edward said. "There's still moments of terror."

Prince Edward, youngest of the queen's four children, worked for a time as a television producer. He now works at what the Palace calls "supporting the queen." In the last calendar year, he made more than 400 public appearances, helping extend the reach of the monarchy.

"The sovereign can only carry out so many things," he said. "That's where the family can increase the reach in a way of the sovereign and a person that in the end we all serve."

"Individually, the themes, the focuses, the interests that we all have are inevitably different because we're all different as people," he added.

Prince Andrew's interests are frankly commercial -- that's his job. Andrew is a dozen years younger than his brother Charles, and fourth in line of succession behind Prince Charles' two sons.

Andrew is a one-man chamber of commerce. He is Great Britain's special representative for international trade.

"I started in Germany last week," he said. "I then had to go to Doha to give a speech. I then went to Abu Dhabi before going to Iraq, then to Kuwait."

Staying 'Vaguely Human'

The queen also travels extensively, often meeting with ordinary citizens. Often they ask her why she isn't wearing a crown. She sometimes travels via the Royal Train, but her more common transportation is the State Bentley -- the pride of the queen's 24-car fleet.

"Her majesty likes to be seen by members of the public etcetera when we're traveling around," said Joe Last, her chauffeur. "When we are traveling and go past schoolchildren, we slow down to about 5 miles an hour so her majesty can be seen and the children can wave."

The queen doesn't have her own aircraft at all, other than her helicopter. So when she needs a plane, the palace charters one. The man in charge of royal travel is Group Captain Tim Hewlett. He makes sure everything is up to snuff.

"Back in the early '50s, sort of whenever my parents went away, they went away for quite a long time and it wasn't so easy, so when they came back, there were great welcome ceremonies," Prince Charles recalled. "And I remember as a child often [being] in my room, which overlooked the Mall and the Victoria Memorial, you know, at night you'd hear, 'We want the queen, we want the queen'. And then my parents would go out onto the balcony."

Prince Charles said that in those days, before so much of the royal family's public life was seen on television, citizens cherished those moments of personal contact. When he is traveling throughout the country, he faces the challenge of a tightly kept schedule.

"The maddening thing is, I think, that you go through all that, trying to, you know, to put people at their ease and then you have to disappear and go on somewhere else, just as they're getting at their ease and just as they're realizing that you're vaguely human," he said. "And not some alien from outer space."

And staying "vaguely human" means showing the flag -- and the royal faces -- regularly, staying in touch with a growing population and a changing world.