THE public should have the final say on whether the Sun newspaper was right to publish images of the Queen as a young child performing a Nazi salute, the UK culture secretary has insisted.
The controversy over the leaked footage showing the monarch, aged six or seven, joining the Queen Mother and her uncle, Prince Edward, in making the controversial gesture has prompted a furious backlash in the Royal household.
Buckingham Palace has launched an inquiry into how the 17-second black-and-white film came into the tabloid newspaper’s possession and is considering taking legal action.
However, John Whittingdale yesterday refused to criticise the newspaper’s decision to run the story, arguing that “they decided clearly there was a public interest and the British public will judge whether or not they were right”.
He said: “Sometimes editors have difficult decisions. Sometimes people will think they are right, sometimes wrong.”
Speaking on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Whittingdale added: “I can understand, in this particular instance, why the Palace were upset by it.” It is understood that, depending on the outcome of its investigation, the Palace will be looking at issues of copyright and possible criminality.
Sometimes editors have difficult decisions. Sometimes people will think they are right, sometimes wrongJohn Whittingdale
A source said the royal household is trying to ascertain where the film came from, who it came from and why it was handed over to the newspaper.
A Palace spokesman said: “It is disappointing that film, shot eight decades ago and apparently from Her Majesty’s personal family archive, has been obtained and exploited in this manner.”
The grainy footage from 1933 shows the Queen playing with a dog in the gardens of Balmoral, The Sun claims, before she raises an arm to wave to the camera with Princess Margaret.
The Queen Mother then makes a Nazi salute, and after glancing towards her mother the Queen mimics the gesture.
The Queen Mother repeats the salute, joined by Edward, and Margaret raises her left hand before the two children con- tinue dancing and playing on the grass.
Some have criticised the newspaper’s decision to publish the footage, and a Palace source said the pictures should be seen “in their proper context and time”.
The Sun’s managing editor, Stig Abell, said the footage was obtained by the newspaper “in a legitimate fashion” and that its publication was “not a criticism of the Queen or the Queen Mum”.
Dickie Arbiter, a Royal commentator and former press secretary for the Queen, suggested the footage may have been accidentally disclosed as part of wider archives.
He said: “I would like to think it was released inadvertently as a bit of harmless 1933 footage without anybody really knowing what was on it.”