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LONDON - Royal officials in Britain expressed anger Saturday that archive film showing Queen Elizabeth performing a Nazi salute as a young girl in the 1930s had been "exploited" by a Murdoch tabloid.
The video, obtained by The Sun, shows the queen, aged about six, joining her uncle, Prince Edward, in raising an arm in the grounds of their Scottish vacation home, Balmoral.The previously-unseen footage is thought to have been shot in 1933 or 1934, when Hitler was rising to prominence in Germany.
The newspaper, owned by the U.K. division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, ran the story on its front page under the headline "Their royal heilnesses."
The newspaper defended its decision to publish the film, saying it was of “immense interest to historians” and would be seen in the context of the period.
However, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman 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."
A royal source said: “Most people will see these pictures in their proper context and time. 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 source added: “The queen and her family's service and dedication to the welfare of this nation during the war, and the 63 years she has spent building relations between nations and peoples speaks for itself."
The grainy film shows the queen playing with a dog before raising an arm to wave to the camera, ITV News reported. Her mother then makes a Nazi salute, and after glancing towards her mother, the queen mimics the gesture.
Prince Edward, who later became King Edward VIII and abdicated in 1936 to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, faced accusations of being a Nazi sympathizer. The couple was photographed meeting Hitler in Munich in October 1937, less than two years before the Second World War broke out.
In an editorial column, the newspaper defended the queen, saying: “These images have been hidden for 82 years. We publish them today, knowing they do not reflect badly on our queen, her late sister or mother in any way.
"They do, however, provide a fascinating insight in the warped prejudices of Edward VIII and his friends in that bleak, paranoid, tumultuous decade."
Stig Abell, Managing Editor of newspaper, said it was "a matter of national historic significance to explore what was going on in the 30s ahead of the Second World War."
He said: "We're not, of course, suggesting anything improper on the part of the queen," adding: "Edward VIII became a Nazi sympathizer in 1936 ... after he abdicated he headed off to Germany briefly in 1937. In 1939 he was talking about his sympathy for Hitler and Germany."
"I think this is a matter of historical significance ... from which we shouldn't shy away."