Buckingham Palace expressed its disappointment Saturday with a tabloid newspaper for publishing images of a young Queen Elizabeth II performing a Nazi salute with her family in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler came to power.
The palace took the unusual step of commenting on the report in The Sun newspaper, which shows the queen — then about 7 years old — at the family home in Balmoral, with her uncle Edward, mother and sister. The grainy footage also shows Elizabeth's mother making the salute as the family laughs.
"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 palace said.
The images, posted on the newspaper's website under the headline "Their Royal Heilnesses," shows the young girls prancing on the grass. A dog runs underfoot. The girls jump up and down.
"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," The Sun wrote in an explanation.
They do, however, provide a fascinating insight into the warped prejudices of Edward VIII and his friends in that bleak, paranoid, tumultuous decade."
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.
Edward and a clique of anti-Semitic aristocrats were terrified of a communist revolution stripping them of power and privilege with deadly force, as it had in Russia. Fascism seemed like an answer.
His desire to appease Germany stands now in stark contrast to the courage and patriotism of the Queen Mum once Luftwaffe bombs fell.
Military historian James Holland told The Sun that the royals were joking.
"I don't think there was a child in Britain in the 1930s or '40s who has not performed a mock Nazi salute as a bit of a lark," he was quoted as saying.
The queen's former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, said the royals would be relaxed about the release of the film given the context in which it was shot — and given that the monarch's parents took a fierce anti-Nazi stand during World War II. But he said they would be angry about how the newspaper obtained what is essentially a home movie.
He noted that the true extent of Nazism's evils became known only later.
The Sun's managing editor, Stig Abell, said the footage was obtained legitimately. He told the BBC that the story was "not a criticism of the queen or the Queen Mum."