Behind the scenes: Digitising documents for ‘Royalty on Record’

In 2022 Her Majesty The Queen celebrates a Platinum Jubilee, as the first British monarch to reach 70 years on the throne.

To celebrate this occasion, we are running an exciting programme of events exploring the history of the British monarchy and Queen Elizabeth’s life through our collection.

You might have seen that as part of the Royalty on Record programme we have digitised and made available via our catalogue, Discovery, a selection of documents relating to Queen Elizabeth’s life, coronation and reign.

These documents include records relating to publicity for her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh, the birth of her son Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, her coronation – which was the first to be televised – and some of her many visits around the country and Commonwealth.

Photograph of Her Majesty inspecting the Royal Guard of Honour (No. 12 Squadron assisted by Station personnel) outside Grimsby Town Hall, June 1958. Catalogue ref: AIR 28/1314

Along with records about Her Majesty, we have also digitised a selection of documents which reveal interesting stories from royal history, including records relating to the coronations of Queen Victoria and Elizabeth I, and the Golden Jubilee of King George III in 1809, which was the first jubilee to be celebrated in a way that is familiar to us today.

In total over 40 documents are available to view online. While there are many thousands of records in our repositories which relate to Queen Elizabeth, and other monarchs through history, we have curated a selection which offer valuable insights into key moments into Queen Elizabeth’s life and show a broad range of material. You will find photographs, ephemera from royal events, correspondence and even the coronation oath signed by Her Majesty.

You can also see an album of photographs capturing Queen Elizabeth’s visit to our Kew site in 1978. Take a look to see how much it has changed over the last few decades!

Her Majesty The Queen enters a room at The National Archives accompanied by Mr J L Walford from the Archives as two women hold the door open for them.
Photograph of Her Majesty entering the Langdale Room on a visit to The National Archives, Kew in February 1978. Catalogue ref: PRO 62/7

This was an unusual digitisation project for us at The National Archives; it is common for us to digitise documents within one record series or relating to one government department, however this project spans the records of 20 government organisations. Even more unusually, the records selected cover around 600 years – the earliest relates to the funeral of Edward II in 1327 and the most recent dates from 1984.

All of this meant that colleagues from various teams and departments had to work differently and adapt processes. To give you an idea of the scale of the project and the range of specialist areas involved, we worked closely with colleagues in conservation, digitisation, licensing, cataloguing, document services and digital services. We also consulted with colleagues about data protection and copyright.

Thanks to the efforts of all of these teams we have been able to make the collection available to search and view via our catalogue, Discovery, wherever you are in the world.

How to access the digitised documents

Here are all of the documents that we have digitised listed in our catalogue.

The catalogue descriptions of all of the documents which are part of this project have been amended to include a reference to the Platinum Jubilee. This means that anyone interested in accessing the documents can search for them using those keywords.

To find other documents held by The National Archives, and other archives, relating to HM The Queen, you can search for them using Discovery. For tips on how to search the catalogue effectively see the Discovery Help pages or watch a short webinar.

Explore some document highlights

We have put some highlights from the newly digitised documents, as well as a few others, on our Royalty on Record web portal.

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