Buckingham Palace has said it is disappointed by the decision of The Sun newspaper to publish an image taken in 1933 of The Queen performing a Nazi salute under the gaze of her uncle, the man who later became Edward VIII. The image that appears on their front page this morning is taken from a 17 second video that the newspaper has also published.
That footage shows the then Princess Elizabeth of York playing on a lawn with her mother, the then Duchess of York, her sister, Margaret, and their paternal uncle, then Prince of Wales. The quartet play with the family pets before the Queen Mother does a Nazi salute and Elizabeth, looking to her mother, also performs one. The Queen was around seven at the time the footage was taken. At that time, Adolf Hitler had just been elected Chancellor of Germany and the full extent of the horrors that would unfold under the Nazis was unknown.
Buckingham Palace 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.” The spokesperson continued: “No one at that time had any sense how it would evolve. To imply anything else is misleading and dishonest.”
The Queen went on to serve with the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service in World War Two, while her mother famously said that she and her family would never leave England during the conflict. King George VI, his Queen Elizabeth and their two daughters won widespread respect and admiration for their devotion to duty and their country during World War Two.
The statement from Buckingham Palace continued: “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.”
The Sun’s Managing Editor, Stig Abell, defended the decision to publish the image and told the BBC that the footage was ‘social history’. He also said the story was of great public importance, adding “it is an…interesting issue, the extent to which the British aristocracy – notably Edward VIII, in this case – in the 1930s, were sympathetic towards fascism.”
The Duke of Windsor has been the subject of numerous debates about whether he was a Nazi sympathizer, with many questions raised after he was photographed meeting Adolf Hitler in 1937. In its editorial, The Sun makes reference to that encounter, saying: “here he is..apparently teaching his royal nieces the same Nazi greeting he would give Hitler personally at his mountain retreat four years later”.
The editorial also says: “these images have lain hidden for almost 82 years. We publish them today, knowing that they do not reflect badly on our Queen, her late sister or mother in any way.” And it makes reference to the wartime service of the Royal Family, saying: “the Queen Mum….was so inspiring that even the Fuhrer considered her a thorn in his side”.
There are questions about where the footage has come from. Its provenance is unknown. However, The Sun today calls for more royal archive from that period of history to be published, saying it is “of immense interest to historians.”
But the Palace remains resolute in its reaction to the publication of this film, saying: ”It’s disappointing that film, shot eight decades ago, has been obtained and exploited in this manner”.
Photo credit: a200/a77Wells via Flickr