People around the world have been shocked to discover—and what’s more, to see—that Elizabeth II, the reigning queen of England, was brought up in an environment with enough tolerance of Fascism that she was taught a playful Nazi salute by her mother and uncle.
A video from the secretive palace archives, published by the tabloid newspaper The Sun this weekend, shows a young Elizabeth, at only seven years old, and her three-year-old sister Margaret, demonstrating the straight-armed salute to the camera. They are flanked by their mother (also called Elizabeth), and their uncle Edward, Prince of Wales.
Those with knowledge of British history were less surprised. For centuries, the royal houses of Europe were closely tied by blood and marriage. At the outbreak of the First World War, the heads of three nations—Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and King George V of England, the current Queen’s grandfather—were all cousins.
Furthermore, the current Queen’s German relatives “had from the outset been great admirers of Hitler,” noted Karina Urbach, a historian at the University of London, in reaction to The Sun’s decision to publish.
Having links with Germany does not, of course, equate to sympathising with the National Socialist regime that was, in 1933 when the home video was shot, taking hold there. But Edward—who briefly became king in 1936, before abdicating in order to marry an American divorceé—was well-known to be a Nazi sympathizer.
The actions of a child, clearly copying her mother, may also have no bearing on the beliefs of the adult. The palace offered little comment on the footage, and is resisting calls to allow more access to its private archives.
It remains to be seen whether this revelation can dampen the country’s abiding, somewhat blind love for its monarchy.