Royal aides are considering legal action over the publication of archive footage that shows the Queen as a child giving a Nazi salute with other members of her family.
Buckingham Palace is understood to be looking into whether the entry into the public domain of the home movie excerpt could have involved criminality. The possibility of a breach of copyright is also being explored.
The Sun, which published the 17-second clip on Saturday showing the then Princess Elizabeth at the age of seven giving the distinctive salute along with her mother and the future Edward VIII, has insisted the material was obtained “in a legitimate fashion”.
The Palace has launched an inquiry into how the footage seems to have left the confines of the royal archive, which contains the private records of the Windsors and is not subject to public access rules like government papers and documents.
The Queen, who yesterday made her first public appearance since the revelation by driving herself to church from Windsor Castle, is reportedly “livid” at the release of the video, in particular at any aspersions it may cast on the late Queen Mother.
Shot in 1933 on the Balmoral estate, apparently with the Queen’s father, the then future George VI behind the camera, the grainy footage shows Elizabeth playing on a lawn with her sister Margaret before her mother makes a Nazi salute. The Queen then mimics her mother’s gesture before being joined by her uncle, who would later abdicate in 1936 and was a sincere admirer of Adolf Hitler.
A royal source said aides were trying to pinpoint where the film had come from, who was responsible for passing it to the Sun and why it was passed to the newspaper.
One possible avenue of inquiry is a specialist cold storage facility run by the British Film Institute (BFI) in Warwickshire which looks after the royal family’s home movies.
The Sun has not revealed how it obtained the footage but said it was one of a number of copies of the clip which had been made “several years ago”. The BFI said it had begun its own inquiry but added that no-one was allowed to view the footage it holds with the explicit permission of the royal family.
Another possibility is that the material was shot on a camera belonging to the future Edward VIII and the film ended up among a huge quantity of photographic material kept at the villa in Paris he shared with the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson.
A total of 44,000 items belonging to the couple later were sold at auction in 1998 by former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, who bought the villa and its contents in 1986 and donated the proceeds from the sale to charity.
But a source close to Mr Al Fayed said last night that the photographic collection found at the villa, which was not included in the sale, had not contained any film reels and neither the Duke nor the Duchess of Windsor had been in the habit of making home movies. It is understood that none of the photographs kept by the couple contained any incriminating images of the former king meeting or saluting members of Hitler’s regime.
The Sun said its decision to publish the film excerpt, which it is understood the newspaper had possession of for several weeks prior to publication, implied no criticism of the Queen or the Queen Mother and was being put in the public domain because of the light it cast on Edward VIII.
Buckingham Palace said the decision to release the footage was “disappointing”. A source added: “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.”Reuse content