The Royal Household has launched an investigation into how film of the Queen as a child, performing what appears to be a Nazi salute, has been published in a national newspaper.
The film shows a young Princess Elizabeth with her arm raised, together with the Queen Mother and the Queen’s uncle, Edward VIII. It is believed the black-and-white home movie was filmed in the grounds of Balmoral, and may have been shot by the Queen’s father, George VI.
Inquiries are being made to discover whether the film came from the Queen’s personal archive, stored in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle, and whether the Royal Family’s legal copyright has been infringed. A spokesman for the Royal Household said: “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.”
The 20-second film, revealed by The Sun, was reportedly shot in 1933 or 1934, when Princess Elizabeth was seven. The newspaper said the original film was under “lock and key”, but several copies had been made several years ago.
The historian Dr Karina Urbach, who was approached about viewing the film 10 days ago, said she was initially very suspicious about its authenticity but quickly became convinced. “I was terribly suspicious when I was first asked but I was quite shocked when I saw it and realised it was not a hoax,” she said.
“I believe but cannot prove it, obviously, that it was shot by George VI. He is the family member missing from the scene and we know he filmed his family all of the time.
“It would make sense as the children are very at ease with the person with the camera. He was a very shy man and he would hide behind the camera.”
Dr Urbach strongly supported the publication of the film and was critical of the uncooperative stance of the Royal Archives in releasing documents from this period. “When I was researching Queen Victoria in the 19th century they were most helpful but when you ask for access to pre-war material they … just freeze you out. They are control freaks,” she said.
Andrew Morton, whose book Seventeen Carnations – The Windsors, The Nazis and the Cover-Up, highlighted the full extent of Edward VIII’s Nazi sympathies and how the Royal Family and politicians including Sir Winston Churchill concealed it, said the likeliest source of the film was the Royal Archives, but also suggested it might have been shot by a friend of Edward VIII or the Bowes-Lyon family.
The Sun’s managing editor, Stig Abell, said the footage was obtained by the newspaper “in a legitimate fashion” and its publication was “not a criticism of the Queen or the Queen Mum”. “It is a historical document that really sheds some insight in to the behaviour of Edward VIII,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said no investigation was under way as no official complaint had been made.