Nazi salute images in The Sun 'won't damage image of Queen or royals'

High-profiles images of the Queen and other senior royals performing the Nazi salute in the 1930s will have little or no negative impact on the image of the monarch or the royal family more generally, senior PR professionals have told PRWeek.

Pic credit: Tim Ireland/AP/Press Association Images
Pic credit: Tim Ireland/AP/Press Association Images

The Sun’s front page on Saturday showed images of family footage that showed the future Queen, then aged six or seven, and the future Queen Mother raising an arm in the manner of the Nazi salute. They were apparently encouraged to do so by future King Edward VIII.

In a statement, Buckingham Palace 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."

PR and reputation experts have dampened suggestions that the images would reflect negatively on the institution of the Queen herself, now aged 89.

Scott Wilson, UK CEO of Cohn & Wolfe, said: "In terms of personal reputation, the Queen’s stock is so high that even a grainy video shot more than 80 years ago will do nothing to damage her standing in the world. Today, few barely remember Prince Harry’s 2005 indiscretion when he was photographed at a party in German wartime uniform with a swastika armband.

"The real battle ahead, however, comes back to the supposed ‘Divine Right’ of Kings and Queens. In today’s world of ultra-transparency, public – and media - interest in scrutinising the previously untouchable archives of institutions including the Vatican, Buckingham Palace and even FIFA, shows no sign of waning. This story goes to the heart of the wider privacy debate and all of its wider contradictions.

"It is not unusual for those who would defend their own family’s right to privacy to insist on full public disclosure of the Palace archives. This is the real PR battle and the weekend’s Nazi salute story is simply one salvo of a debate that is only set to widen."

Gavin Devine, CEO of MHP Communications, said: "This will have no impact on public views of the royal family. Most people will give an uninterested shrug; everyone else will recognise it happened a long time ago, and there has been no evidence since of Nazi sympathies in George VI, Queen Elizabeth or any of their heirs and successors. Resurgent public interest and support for the royals centred on Kate and Wills will not be dented.

"The Palace has done everything right. This is an invasion of privacy and there is no real public interest here, and it is right to point this out. In fact I suspect that damage will have been done to the reputation of The Sun; that is the real story here."

Molly Aldridge, CEO of M&C Saatchi PR, said: "I think that they’ve done what the royals do – issue a statement, keep their appointments and show some stiff upper lip.

"The difficult thing for them is that their diary of commitments is such that they are always out and about. There’s no going to ground for a few days to let the dust settle. Consequently following these big invasive stories there are always shots of them looking uncomfortable inside cars.

"I think the bigger point here is that it will blow over pretty quickly unless there are many more videos to follow and this wasn’t really a pop at the Queen, but actually more at King George, her father. We must remember that the salute at the time, in 1933, didn’t have the same impact it did ten years later so it feels slightly blown out of proportion and The Sun has somewhat sensationalised (which is something it does very well) the video (and still) causing a way bigger story than perhaps it warrants.

"I don’t believe this will cause any major long-term damage to the Queen or the royal family."

Ed Coke, a director at consultancy firm the Reputation Institute, said: "If you look at the things that actually make a reputation - leadership, responsibility - from what I can see the Queen is in no way compromised by this story; this all happened when she was a child."

He added: "Is it going to send the royals into crisis? No, I don't think so, unless there was a major mistake in the way they responded to it."

On Sunday, The Daily Telegraph reported that the footage may have accidently been given to documentary film makers for an exhibition called Royal Childhood.

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