Palace pushes for probe into how newspaper obtained footage
Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30
Buckingham Palace is considering legal action over the leaking of film footage showing the Queen and her mother performing a Nazi salute.
The palace has also begun an inquiry into how the 17-second film clip ended up in the hands of the Sun and if there was "any criminality" involved.
It will call in police if it finds any evidence the footage was stolen from the royal archives at Windsor Castle
The footage, dating from about 1933 may have been inadvertently given to documentary makers filming a Royal family tribute.
Buckingham Palace is also looking at possible breaches of copyright. It may have been handed over by mistake.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said no investigation was under way as no official complaint had been made.
The tabloid published a 17-second excerpt, showing the future Queen - aged just six or seven - and her mother performing a Nazi salute.
The Queen's uncle, who later abdicated as Edward VIII and who was also later widely accused of being a Nazi sympathiser, is also featured in the footage encouraging the others to perform the salute.
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. Bertie (as George VI was known to his family prior to his elder brother's abdication) 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 material on 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," said the historian.
The footage is understood to be part of a vast collection of photographs, correspondence and home movies that make up the royal archive, housed in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle.
The Sun has refused to disclose the source but said "the original film remains under lock and key". It added that "several copies of the clip were made several years ago" and that one copy had been handed to the Sun.
Senior sources said that it was inconceivable that any- body working in the Royal archive would have leaked such material because of their "loyalty" to the Royal family. Outside access to the archive is "rare" and "tightly controlled".
Film-makers make requests for access to home -movie footage for documentaries including tribute programmes for such events as the Queen's golden and diamond-jubilee celebrations among others.
"This probably happened when somebody was releasing some footage to a television company and somebody at the Royal archive didn't see it could be misinterpreted or else didn't check carefully for what was in it," said one source. The excerpt obtained by the Sun is part of a longer home movie of the then Princess Elizabeth and her family playing in the grounds of Birkhall, on the Balmoral estate.
The Sun is understood to have been in possession of the footage for some weeks. Buckingham Palace was first made aware of its existence on Thursday evening, prompting an angry exchange of letters. The Sun chose to publish yesterday, to the fury of Buckingham Palace, which accused the newspaper of exploiting the Royal family's private archive.
Yesterday, the Queen Mother's official biographer William Shawcross said: "I think it is absolutely outrageous that The Sun should publish this. It adds nothing to our historical knowledge.
"It is children playing with their parents. Anybody can horse around in their back garden. It means absolutely nothing.
"When I wrote the official biography of the Queen Mother I spent six years in the Royal archive going through the Queen Mother's private letters 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.
Mr Shawcross added: "There is no way anybody in the archives has leaked this or anything else. They are totally scrupulous, honourable people."
Dickie Arbiter, the Queen's former press secretary, said: "I would like to think it was released inadvertently as a bit of harmless 1933 footage without anybody really knowing what was on it. I think what they would probably like to know is where it came from - and who gave it to the Sun."