Buckingham Palace might have accidentally released to documentary filmmakers a home movie of a 7-year-old Princess Elizabeth performing the Nazi stiff-arm salute, the Telegraph reported Sunday. The Sun, a rival paper, released the 1933 footage over the weekend, setting off outrage from some quarters.
An edited version of the video, not showing Elizabeth, now the queen, in the "Sieg Heil" gesture, appeared in an exhibition last year called "Royal Childhood," which featured a series of never-before-seen royal home movies.
The clip is believed to have been inadvertently released to documentary filmmakers by the palace, and then somehow ended up in the hands of the Sun.
“I do not believe this was stolen from the archives,” said Hugo Vickers, the royal biographer, the Telegraph reported. “What may have happened is the footage was inadvertently left in or the person releasing it did not see the sensational possibility of it.”
The palace has considered taking legal action and has launched an inquiry over how the Sun got the footage. The newspaper’s managing editor Stig Abell said it was obtained “in a legitimate fashion” and that the publication was “not a criticism of the queen or the queen mum.”
The clip features the queen as a child, her mother, her sister Margaret and her uncle — then Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII and the Duke of Windsor --performing a Nazi salute. The queen’s father, later King George VI, is believed to have been the one filming on the grounds of Birkhall on the Balmoral royal estate in Scotland. Edward was known for his fascist sympathies and visited Hitler after his abdication.
Some people have criticized the Sun for publishing the footage, and a palace source said the shocking images should be seen “in their proper context and time,” the Irish Examiner reported.
Boris Johnson, a columnist for the Telegraph, wrote, “It makes my blood boil to think that anyone should use this image in any way to impugn the extraordinary record of service of Her Majesty to this country,” he wrote. “She was a child, a tiny child, and she is making that parodic salute long before her family could possibly have grasped what Hitler and Hitlerism was really all about.”
The leaked video comes at a time when the palace is facing more and more pressure to make the Royal Archives public.
“The royal family can’t suppress their own history forever,” said Karina Urbach of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London, the Telegraph reported. “This is censorship. Censorship is not a democratic value.”