Buckingham Palace is considering taking legal action over leaked footage that shows a young Queen apparently performing a Nazi salute with her family.
The Palace has launched an inquiry into how the 17-second black and white film came into the hands of The Sun newspaper.
It shows the Queen, aged six or seven, join the Queen Mother and her uncle Prince Edward in raising an arm in what the newspaper claims is a Nazi salute as she played alongside her younger sister, Princess Margaret.
It is understood that depending on the outcome of the investigation, the Palace will be looking at issues of copyright and possible criminality.
— The Sun (@TheSun) July 18, 2015
A source said the royal household is trying to ascertain where the film came from, who it came from and why it was handed over to the newspaper.
The Telegraph quoted a source as saying: "Access to the Royal Archives is rare and covered by confidentiality agreements."
The paper suggested that the footage could have mistakenly been handed over as part of a batch of home films during the assembly of a tribute piece.
A Palace spokesman said on Saturday: "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."
Meanwhile a source told the Sunday Mirror that the Queen was apparently "livid" at the leak.
The source said that Her Majesty felt "betrayed" by "deliberate mischief making" and demanded to know how the film got into the hands of the Sun.
The grainy footage from 1933 shows the Queen playing with a dog on the lawn in the gardens of Balmoral, The Sun claims, before she raises an arm to wave to the camera with Margaret.
The Queen Mother then makes a Nazi salute, and after glancing towards her mother the Queen mimics the gesture.
The Queen Mother repeats the salute, joined by Edward, and Margaret raises her left hand before the two children continue dancing and playing on the grass.
Some have criticised the newspaper's decision to publish the footage, and a Palace source said the pictures should be seen "in their proper context and time".
The source added: "The Queen is around six years of age at the time and entirely innocent of attaching any meaning to these gestures.
"The Queen and her family's service and dedication to the welfare of this nation during the war, and the 63 years the Queen has spent building relations between nations and peoples speaks for itself."
The Sun's managing editor Stig Abell said the footage was obtained by the newspaper "in a legitimate fashion" and that its publication was "not a criticism of the Queen or the Queen Mum".
The reaction to the scoop was mixed. Some were incensed by the story...
If you needed a reason not to buy The Sun, sorry I mean Scum, its today's front page. It's such a non-story that it's actually embarrassing.— Mark Jackson (@Notfiman) July 18, 2015
Talk about making something out of nothing today re The Sun's front page. In 1933 that gesture meant nothing like what it came to mean later— Susan W (@CiderwithSusie) July 18, 2015
Re the "Nazi salute" This is typical Gutter Sun. The Queen was 7 years old FFS. It was years before anyone knew what the Nazis were about.— Malcolm Wood (@Askrigglad) July 18, 2015
The Queen Nazi salute story is more proof that the sun is despicable, It is run by a despicable human being. Stop buying it. #DontBuyTheSun— Andy Hearn (@AndyHearn09) July 18, 2015
Other defended it…
Whatever you think of the Sun, Queen doing a Nazi salute is an amazing scoop which any paper would have published (except perhaps Mail?)— Rory Cellan-Jones (@ruskin147) July 18, 2015
Congratulations to The Sun for publishing photo of 6-year old Queen giving Nazi salute in 1933. Of course they should have published it— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) July 18, 2015
I am a huge monarchist and I have absolutely no problem with The Sun's front page. Does not implicate HM and is deeply fascinating.— Benjamin (@screwlabour) July 18, 2015
Never one to defend The Sun but yes people knew what the Nazi's were about in 1933, and way before then— Lanky (@GeorgeLankester) July 18, 2015