Buckingham Palace is reportedly considering legal action over how a 17-second clip showing a young Queen Elizabeth II giving the Nazi salute was obtained and published by The Sun, while bracing for a new documentary set to reveal the close ties between the family of her future husband and Adolf Hitler.
A Channel 4 documentary, due to be aired July 30, is expected to look into how Prince Philip’s sister met and came to admire Hitler, according to the Daily Mail. The documentary will include passages from a private, unpublished memoir kept by Philip’s older sister Sophie, who reportedly wrote of entertaining the Nazi leader and his men before their rise to power.
Three of Prince Philip’s sisters were married to senior Nazi officers, including Sophie who wed Prince Christoph von Hessen, head of the SS in the Air Ministry.
“As Germany was going through hard times and there was a lot of poverty and general dissatisfaction everywhere, we were interested to hear about the great improvements his party was planning to do,” she wrote in her memoir, according to the Daily Mail.
“As [Nazi strongman Hermann] Goering was insistent we should meet Hitler personally, we decided to ask him to lunch at our flat… I have to say here, that, although Chri [her husband] and I changed our political view fundamentally some years later, we were impressed by this charming and seemingly modest man, and by his plans to change and improve the situation in Germany,” she wrote.
Christoph was killed in 1943.
The Palace said it had no knowledge of the upcoming documentary and had “nothing to say,” according to the report.
The Royal Family was still dealing with the embarrassment over the Nazi salute film published by the Sun last week.
The Sun said it obtained the footage in a legitimate manner, and defended the publication.
Initial investigation reportedly suggests that the clip may have been in a batch of archive material given to filmmakers from the Royal Archive for a future documentary. The royal family was reported to be examining whether any copyright had been breached, and whether any criminality was involved.
The Sun’s Saturday front page showed the queen raising her right hand in the air as her mother, the late Queen Mother, does the same. The images showing the apparent Nazi salute come from a black and white home movie which The Sun reported was shot at the royal family’s rural Balmoral estate in Scotland in 1933 or 1934 and had never been made public before.
The video shows the young future queen briefly raising her right hand in the air three times, as well as dancing around excitedly and playing with a corgi. The group, which also included the queen’s sister Princess Margaret, were apparently being encouraged by the queen’s uncle, the future king Edward VIII.
The late Queen Mother’s official biographer, William Shawcross, said the clip merely showed “children playing with their parents. Anybody can horse around in their back garden. It means absolutely nothing.” He said he spent years reading the Queen Mother’s private correspondence “and there is not a scintilla of evidence of Nazi sympathies in her letters. She wrote of the evil of Nazism. She and the king did more than anyone apart from Churchill to keep up morale during the war.” The king in question, George VI, was apparently behind the camera of the 1933 home movie.
The Sun’s managing editor Stig Abel called it “a historical document that really sheds some insight into the behavior of Edward VIII.” Abel added, in a radio interview, that he understood that the Royal Family “don’t like this coming out but I also feel, on a relatively purist basis, that the role of journalists and the media is to bring to light things that happened.”
The headline on The Sun story Saturday punned: “Their Royal Heilnesses” — a reference to the “Heil Hitler” greeting used in Nazi Germany. A smaller headline elaborated: “Secret 1933 film shows Edward VIII teaching this Nazi salute to the Queen.”
The article said the “astonishing home movie” had never previously been seen. The paper also used a separate photograph of Hitler saluting to emphasize the parallel gestures.
“It is disappointing that film shot eight decades ago and apparently from HM’s (her majesty’s) personal family archive has been obtained and exploited in this manner,” a spokesman for Buckingham Palace said in a statement following the publication.
Ten years ago, it was also The Sun, a tabloid and Britain’s top-selling newspaper, which published a photograph of Prince Harry wearing a swastika armband to a friend’s fancy dress party. The fifth in line to the throne later apologized.
The precise nature of Edward’s links to the Nazis are still debated in Britain, with some historians accusing him of being sympathetic to Hitler’s regime.
He met Hitler in Germany in 1937 after having abdicated as king the previous year over his desire to marry US divorcee Wallis Simpson.
A royal source speaking on condition of anonymity said that the queen would have been “entirely innocent of attaching any meaning to these gestures” at such a young age.
“The queen and her family’s service and dedication to the welfare of this nation during the war (World War II) and the 63 years the queen has spent building relations between nations and peoples speaks for itself,” the source added.
The source also claimed that “no one at that time had any sense how it (the situation in Germany) would evolve.”
The affection in which many Britons still hold the Queen Mother, who died in 2002, is based on her and husband King George VI’s decision to stay in London during World War II and visit bomb sites caused by German aerial attacks known as The Blitz.
Hitler became German leader in 1933. By the end of World War II 12 years later, millions of people had been killed in concentration camps, six million of them Jews.
The queen paid a state visit to Germany last month during which she went to Bergen-Belsen, her first visit to a former Nazi camp, where some 52,000 people died, including teenage Jewish diarist Anne Frank.