The Sun, Britain’s top-selling tabloid newspaper, has published a previously unknown film from 1933 that shows Queen Elizabeth performing a Nazi salute as a young girl.

Buckingham Palace took the unusual step of commenting on the report published on Saturday, confirming the authenticity of the video and expressing disappointment over its use. 

The black-and-white film from the year Adolf Hitler came to power shows the future Edward VIII teaching his nieces, the current British monarch Elizabeth, aged about seven at the time, and her three-year-old sister, Princess Margaret, how to perform the salute.

Dancing and smiling with little apparent understanding of the salute's significance, the two young girls are encouraged to briefly perform the raised right-arm gesture by Edward in the gardens of Balmoral, a royal estate in Scotland.

The Sun published the story and the 17-second film on its website under the headline "Their Royal Heilnesses". Edward also raises his arm, as does his sister-in-law, the Queen Mother.

"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 Buckingham Palace spokesman 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," the palace said.

"Noone at that time had any sense how it would evolve. To imply anything else is misleading and dishonest."

Editor defends The Sun

Edward VIII abdicated after 11 months on the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced US socialite, for whom he publicly declared his love.

Edward was widely known to be sympathetic to Hitler's government.

He was succeeded by his younger brother, George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, who is 89 and widely popular in the country, will overtake Queen Victoria as Britain's longest-reigning monarch in September.

Stig Abell, the Sun's managing editor, said the report was in the public interest and that the tabloid's eight-page coverage put it in the appropriate historical context.

He did not say how the newspaper obtained the footage.

"The purpose of this was never to embarrass the Queen or the palace," Abell told Sky News television.

"You could not find a newspaper more supportive of the royal family than the Sun, but you cannot find a newspaper keener to publish stories in the public interest than the Sun."

Source: Agencies