The Queen Nazi salute footage defended by palace after The Sun front page

The footage allegedly shows the Queen performing the salute as a young child while 'playing' with her family

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Buckingham Palace has defended footage of the Queen performing a Nazi salute as a child by saying it shows the royal family “playing”.

The grainy film obtained by The Sun dates from 1933, when Adolf Hitler was gathering power as Chancellor of Germany, and lasts just 17 seconds.

The Queen, aged six or seven, is seen raising her arm in the salute alongside the Queen Mother, her uncle the Prince of Wales and younger sister Princess Margaret.

Prince Edward, who went on to become King Edward VIII before abdicating, met Hitler during a visit to Germany in 1937 and allegedly once described him as “(not) such a bad chap”.

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said it was “disappointing” that film, believed to be from Her Majesty's personal family archive, had been obtained and “exploited”.

The cine film begins with the Queen playing with a corgi on the lawn in the gardens of Balmoral, before she waves to the camera with Margaret.

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The Queen Mother then makes a Nazi salute and, after glancing towards her mother, her young daughter mimics the gesture.

When the Queen Mother repeats the salute, joined by Edward, Margaret raises her left hand before the two children continue dancing and playing on the grass while the older royals salute yet again, looking towards the camera.

The infamous gesture was used widely in Britain to mock Hitler in the '30s and its performance was not automatically considered an approval of his regime.

A source at Buckingham Palace said: “Most people will see these pictures in their proper context and time

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The salute was adopted in the 1930s by the fascist Nazi Party to signal its warped idea of patriotism and Adolf Hitler

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"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.”

Edward, who was on the throne for a less than a year in 1936 before controversially abdicating to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, faced persistent accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser during his lifetime and since his death in 1972.

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Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor meeting Adolf Hitler in 1937

The Sun defended its publication of the private family footage by saying it was in the public interest to expose his alleged Nazi links and defended the Queen Mother, Queen and Princess Margaret.

The Queen, who is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War and visited a concentration camp in Germany last month.

But her reported hatred for the Nazi regime was not shared by her uncle, who would have been installed as a puppet king by the Third Reich in the event of an invasion, according to a 1940 government memo.

Additional reporting by PA