BUCKINGHAM Palace yesterday accused the Sun of exploitation for publishing footage of the Queen performing a Nazi salute more than 80 years ago.
The film, said to have been shot at Balmoral in 1933 or 1934, showed the Queen, then aged six or seven, join the Queen Mother and her uncle Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, in raising an arm in salute as she played with younger sister Princess Margaret.
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 black-and-white footage, which lasts around 17 seconds, shows the Queen playing with a dog on a lawn before she raises an arm to wave to the camera with 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 continue dancing and playing on the grass.
A Palace source said: “Most people will see these pictures in their proper context and time. This is a family playing and momentarily referencing a gesture many would have seen from contemporary news reels.
“No one at that time had any sense how it would evolve. To imply anything else is misleading and dishonest.
“The Queen is around six years of age at the time and entirely innocent of attaching any meaning to these gestures.
“The Queen and her family’s service and dedication to the welfare of this nation during the war, and the 63 years the Queen has spent building relations between nations and peoples speaks for itself.”
Edward, who later became King Edward VIII and abdicated to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, faced numerous accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser.
The couple were photographed meeting Hitler in Munich in October 1937, less than two years before the Second World War broke out.
Military historian James Holland defended the Queen’s Nazi salute as the royals playing around.
He said: “They are all having a laugh, there are lots of smiles, so it’s all a big joke. I don’t think there was a child in Britain in the 1930s or 40s who had not performed a mock Nazi salute as a bit of a lark.”
Royal commentator and the Queen’s former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, 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. I think what they (Buckingham Palace) would probably like to know is where it came from and who gave it to the Sun.”
Stig Abell, managing editor of the Sun, said the footage was obtained by the newspaper “in a legitimate fashion” and its publication was “not a criticism of the Queen or the Queen Mum”.
He said: “It is a historical document that really sheds some insight in to the behaviour of Edward VIII. I understand that they don’t like this coming out but I also feel, on a relatively purist basis, that the role of journalists and the media is to bring to light things that happened.
“What we have done is just brought to light an historical document. We have sought to present it in a contextual fashion around Edward VIII, and have made the point relatively clearly, that we recognise, of course, the Queen and the Queen Mum went on to become heroes of the Second World War and there are no aspersions being cast upon them by The Sun.”
ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST
The Sun editorial (extracts)
FROM a distance of 82 years – and with all that we now know – grainy images of the Queen giving a Nazi salute seem profoundly shocking.
Here was our future monarch, her sister and their mother copying the trademark gesture of the monster behind mankind’s greatest evil. But the pictures must be seen in the context of 1933.
No one knew then what Adolf Hitler was capable of. Or that, deep in Bavaria, he was already opening his first concentration camp at Dachau.
What gives the Sun’s extraordinary images such historical significance, and the reason we believe the public has a right finally to see them, is the involvement of the Queen’s uncle Edward.
The man who briefly became our king was already a fan of Hitler – and remained so as late as 1970, long after the Holocaust’s horrors were laid bare.
Here he is, in our pictures, apparently teaching his Royal nieces the same Nazi greeting he would give Hitler personally at his mountain retreat four years later.
These images have lain hidden for 82 years. We publish them today, knowing they do not reflect badly on our Queen, her late sister or mother in any way.
They do, however, provide a fascinating insight into the warped prejudices of Edward VIII and his friends in that bleak, paranoid, tumultuous decade.
PUBLICATION of the footage was exploitative, if you look at what is being implied by the Sun. It has made a cynical attempt to sell newspapers.
I think the decision was completely wrong and the images could be easily misconstrued.
In 1933, it was not clear that Hitler would become a murderous monster, and at the time he looked comical with his odd moustache.
The published images appear to be a send-up.However, not everyone is well schooled in history and there may well be some people in future years who gain a completely misleading view of the footage.
The Hitler salute is one of the most indelibly evil in the history of the world, so I see it as a form of smear. There is absolutely no doubt about the malign aspects of Edward, the then Prince of Wales, but the Queen Mother was a symbol of resistance during the Second World War, and the Queen also served.
Richard Fitzwilliams is a royal commentator