The Sun has released footage and stills of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret performing a Nazi salute with Edward, Prince of Wales.
— The Sun Newsdesk (@SunNewsdesk) July 17, 2015
The newspaper’s headline declares a world exclusive, with the headline ‘Their Royal Heilnesses’, in reference to the salute, which was usually accompanied with ‘Heil Hitler’ during the Nazi regime.
Lasting around 17 seconds, the family footage shows The Duchess of York with her daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, and her brother-in-law, The Prince of Wales, in the gardens of Balmoral.
The images were taken in 1933, and depict the young Princesses waving to the camera, and playing with their canine companion. Then, the future Queen Mother raising her arm in salute; Princess Elizabeth, aged six or seven, looks towards her mother, then does the same, with Margaret momentarily joining in. The video, which does not have audio, also shows Prince Edward raising his arm high.
It is unclear how the newspaper came to be in possession of the film, which clearly seems to be a family video.
Though these images seem shocking to a world that knows all about the horrors of Hitler’s Germany, the Nazis, and the Holocaust, they must be considered in context: 1933 was the year Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany. While he and his party were growing in popularity, he had little power until August of 1933, when President Hindenburg died, and Hitler merged the roles: this is where he began to garner power, and mutate Germany into a dictatorship, eventually attempting to exterminate those he did not think worthy of life.
Many people across Europe found Hitler to be an amusing figure with his Charlie Chaplin-like moustache, and angry sounding speeches, and he was ridiculed in cartoons and papers throughout the continent. It seems to us that the film, with two young children, is a family joking around, mimicking something seen in the news.
To suggest anything is meant by the gesture is absurd: Queen Elizabeth and King George refused to leave London during the Blitz so as not to appease Adolf Hitler in any way: The Queen was even reportedly called ‘the most dangerous woman in Europe by Herr Hitler. Princess Elizabeth was part of the war effort, working with the Auxiliary Territorial Service at her own insistence from 1938, and the Palace adhered to rationing, just like the rest of the country did.
Buckingham Palace released a statement following the release of the footage: “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.”
Prince Edward, briefly Edward VIII, has often been seen as a Nazi sympathiser, having visited Nazi Germany prior to WWII. He also reportedly tried to influence his brother, George VI, out of war and into peace talks with the dictator. Edward’s appearance in the video, unfortunately, seems to reinforce this pro-Hitler image.
A Palace source has been quoted by a number of publications, reflecting the view of The Crown Chronicles: “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.”
World War Two historian has also commented: “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.”
You may view the footage, for free, here.
Photo: still from Sun video