Astonishing footage of the young Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother appearing to perform Nazi salutes emerged last night [Jul 17]. The home movie, shot in 1933 at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, shows Princess Elizabeth playing with her family in the gardens when she was six or seven.
Grainy film of the future Queen shows her with her mother, sister Margaret, three and their uncle Prince Edward – who became King Edward VIII. There were claims the pro-Hitler prince was teaching the children the salutes just six years before Britain went to war with Germany. But royal sources insisted the Queen was no Nazi or Nazi sympathiser.
A Palace spokesman blasted the release of the film, by The Sun newspaper. He 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.” And a royal source added: “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.
“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 dedication to the welfare of this nation during the war, and the 63 years she has spent building relations between nations and peoples speaks for itself.”
The Palace was reported to be particularly angry as the film emerged three weeks after the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh paid their respects at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
There is no suggestion the Queen or her mum were, but historians believe the film could shed light on Edward’s attitude towards the fascists. Nazi expert Dr Karina Urbach said: “The Queen was a child when this film was shot, long before the atrocities of the Nazis became widely known.
“But Edward could well be teaching the Queen and Margaret how to do the salute. The film involves our monarch and is an important historical document.”
Military historian James Holland added: “They are all having a laugh, there are lots of smiles, so it’s all a big joke.”
Edward, who later became King Edward VIII and abdicated to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, faced numerous accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser. In February 1945, Princess Elizabeth backed the war effort and joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service working as a driver and mechanic.