DMC / Splash News
The U.K. tabloid The Sun has published what it says is a never-before-seen "secret" video of Queen Elizabeth II giving a Nazi salute when she was about six years old and Buckingham Palace is NOT happy.
The 17-second black-and-white film was reportedly shot as early as 1933, when Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. The Sun said on Friday that the clip shows Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret, 3, playing on a lawn next to their uncle and future British king Edward VIII.
Elizabeth is seen raising her arm to wave at the camera, glancing at her mom, the Queen Mother, who then gives the Nazi salute at the apparent encouragement of Edward. Elizabeth then does the same and he follows suit. The newspaper had used a screenshot from the clip on its cover, with the headline, "Their Royal Heilnesses," a reference to "Heil Hitler."
"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," a palace spokesperson told NBC News.
"Most people will see these pictures in their proper context and time," the outlet quoted a royal source as saying. "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," the source added. "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 Sun defended its decision to post the video, which was copied from an original film that "remains under lock and key." The tabloid said a source provided the clip and "believes it to be of massive public interest and historical importance."
"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 newspaper said. "They do, however, provide a fascinating insight into the warped prejudices of Edward VIII and his friends in that bleak, paranoid, tumultuous decade."
"What gives The Sun's extraordinary images such historical significance, and the reason we believe the public has a right finally to see them, is the involvement of the Queen's uncle Edward," the outlet added.
Edward had faced accusations of being a Nazi sympathizer. He visited Hitler in Germany less than two years before the start of World War II and the Nazi Holocaust.
Edward had renounced the throne in 1936 after less than a year to marry a divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson. His brother and Elizabeth's father, George VI, became king in his place.
"It's no secret Edward met Hitler and had right-wing sympathies. But the same cannot be said about the Queen Mother or King George VI," military historian James Holland told The Sun. "The two were completely steadfast from start to finish in their abhorrence of Nazism in their role as leaders of the free world and the fight against that tyranny."
Elizabeth's grandson Prince Harry had in 2005, at 20 years old, stirred controversy over a leaked photo of him wearing a swastika armband at a friend's costume party was leaked to the tabloids. The Sun ran the headline, "Harry the Nazi." The prince later apologized.