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The Queen and the Nazis

This may be the only time in my entire life I refer to a piece from The Sun, or agree with its editors on anything. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jul/18/queens-nazi-salute-footage-historical-significance-sun

If the footage shown denotes Edward VIII, Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the young Princess Elizabeth playing at nazi salutes - and I think it does, because the Palace would have denied it out of hand otherwise, not just plea for time and context - it is historically both important and interesting. What it doesn't do is cast the Queen in a bad light. I am not a monarchist, never have been never will be; but she's just a little girl imitating her elders. That's what children do. It does, however, materially affect the world's view of the Windsors. We have no reason to believe that the Queen is or ever was some secret nazi, but the influences upon her inferred from the footage are very questionable. But is it any more than inference?

I've read some pretty daft indignation, the silliest being that the footage occurred in 1933, before Hitler became any kind of bother to us. Mein Kampf, in which Hitler makes his ideas about Germany, the Jews, etc quite clear, was published in the 1920s. It's hard to imagine that Cookie and Eddie didn't read it. Cookie was a strange one. People have plenty to say about the Queen Mother during the war - 'She could have left Buckingham Palace, but she didn't,' they say. Well no. If this footage is anything to go by, she was one of the safest people in Britain. Goose-steppers in the Palace would have been delighted at this little home video.

Many historians have discussed Hitler's hopes for using the Royal Family in his conquest of Britain; he may have been basing such hopes on sympathies far more real than we want to contemplate. History books describe Hitler as this moody obsessive who could not brook disagreement, a man of mediocre artistic abilities, bourgouis tastes and obvious unpleasant aspirations, exemplifying only the fury of a people smarting from military humiliation and economic ruin. But how on earth did he become so popular among the ruling classes of Europe? A carefully managed stage performer I can see. Popular analysis does not point to him as a personally charismatic man. And yet he must have been...but how? How could they like him?

Edward VIII's nazi sympathies have been widely discussed. What an odious prick this man seems to have been; racist, anti-semitic, terrified that the Bolsheviks were going to take his fortune, of which he had not earned a single penny...I was shocked to read of his fury at the US for getting involved in the war. Seriously, this man cared not tuppence for the lives and deaths of the people who might have been his subjects.

I think therein lies the issue. The footage wouldn't be so shocking if we didn't idolise the royal family and imbue them with qualities they just may not have. Adoration is expensive. We pay them to be totems of eternal Britishness, to exemplify the nation's ideals if such things exist, and we assume that being brought up to the job will imbue them with the ability to do it. Edward VIII disproved that theory once and for all; we were very lucky that he was not our monarch by 1940. And as for the family? Well, apparently the Palace is going nuts trying to find out how the footage ended up with the press. That's a dumb report to put about - makes it look as though they are panicking in case there's other stuff they would prefer to keep hidden. They'd do better to pretend to forget. It may not be prudent to draw more attention to how interesting they were, once upon a time.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
irdm
Jul. 20th, 2015 01:20 am (UTC)
“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.
smokingboot
Jul. 20th, 2015 08:04 am (UTC)
Disingenuous! But what else can they say?
"The Prince of Wales was quite pro-Hitler and said it was no business of ours to interfere in Germany's internal affrairs either re- the Jews or anyone else, and added that dictators are very popular these days and we might want one in England." - Robert Vansittart, Diplomat, 1933 - same year as the footage.

The little girl knows nothing. The adults in the footage could not guess at what would happen in 1940, but at least one of them knew was happening in Germany in 1933.
caddyman
Jul. 20th, 2015 10:20 am (UTC)
Re: Disingenuous! But what else can they say?
I don't know how much evidence there is, buried or otherwise, about HM The Q-Mum's views on Nazism even before the war, but as late as 1970 the Duke of Windsor was quoted as saying that Hitler wasn't such a bad bloke, I believe (though I am more than happy to be corrected).

The country certainly dodged a bullet when Ted VIII abdicated and we have much to thank Wallis Simpson and the Establishment Fuddies who hated her for.

As to how the Royals would have been treated had Hitler invaded? Well, not well, I suspect, though Edward VIII would have been reinstated as a puppet ruler and most of the rest would have interned. More likely, thye senior Royals would have disappeared to Canada on a Battleship of their choice. I believe that was the plan.

Interestingly, until the abdication at least, Edward was very popular in the country, particularly with the working class; during the economic collapse in the late 20s and early 30s he spent a lot of time touring the country trying to be the sort of king in the making that gets kicked out by Parliament for being too political.

Edited at 2015-07-20 10:21 am (UTC)
smokingboot
Jul. 20th, 2015 11:30 am (UTC)
Re: Disingenuous! But what else can they say?
Yup, I think Wallis and her haters deserve a slap up meal and maybe a medal or two for getting Ed out of the way. He's such a strange character to read about, it's hard to know what to make of him. I haven't studied the period much, so I find it hard to piece together. He's often described as a 'thinker' but seems to have been intellectually limited. He stood up for those Welsh unemployed miners...and yet seems to have had a very poor understanding of anything in general beyond what he wanted. And as to his pro-nazi stance, it's very difficult to understand, even given the context of the time, especially, as you say, when he didn't really change those views for the remainder of his life. Indeed, some of the comments he made later in his life indicate an abhorrent character.

20th January 1936: The granite faced Egregore of Britain makes itself a cup of tea in the vaults of the White Tower, while switching on the radio. It listens a minute, shakes its head. 'Time to swap this one out, ' suggests a nearby raven. Outside, it carries on raining...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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