No one likes being held responsible for their childish indiscretions, so it is no surprise that the Queen is reported to feel “furious” that video footage has surfaced from around 1933, which shows her prancing round the gardens at Balmoral, aged six, with her mother, the then Duchess of York, giving a Nazi salute at the apparent behest of her uncle, the future Edward VIII.
She probably does not remember that particular playtime too clearly. But, embarrassing as it undoubtedly is, the grainy shots have a certain historic value as a reminder of how fashionable and uncontroversial both Hitler and Mussolini were in the early 1930s, at the height of the Depression, when democracy seemed played out and strong men were the rage. The great Liberal leader Lloyd George, who led this country to victory in the First World War, declared in 1936, the year of the Berlin Olympics, that Hitler had not only presided over a “miracle” in Germany but had even restored a “general sense of gaiety” – and he was far from alone in enunciating such absurd sentiments.
The Bishop of Durham, Hensley Henson, an old-school Tory, was one of the few public figures of the era to inveigh tirelessly against Hitler’s “racial fanaticism”, and he was widely regarded as a freak and a bore for his pains.
How much any of that background debate informed the future Queen’s frolics in Balmoral is unclear. She and her mother may just have been having a laugh – mocking the German dictator who many people then likened to Charlie Chaplin. After such a long passage of time, it is hard to tell.Reuse content