Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Queen is probably not a Nazi but I am still a republican...

For The Sun, it was mission accomplished.

Step 1: Stoke up outrage over photographs and a film from 1933 featuring the Queen Mother and Uncle Edward apparently teaching the Queen and Princess Margaret how to do a Nazi salute. Put said photo on the front page with a Nazi-pun headline.

Step 2: Wait for the inevitable media outcry whereby other news outlets, both within the Murdoch stable and outside it, won't stop banging on about it so the front page gets a ridiculous amount of free publicity. No need to pay an ad agency this week.

Step 3: Weather the storm of criticism about The Sun being a republican newspaper that just wants to cut down "hardworking royals" and piss on British traditions.

Step 4: Bask in the increased sales and website clicks safe in the knowledge that, if anything, running an 82-year-old photo as "news" has probably increased support for the monarchy.

The Sun loves the royals and would be lost without them. They love a good royal scandal because they love the revenue but they will always join in the media forelock-tugging whenever there is a royal wedding or birth that demands pages and pages of fawning coverage. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

Firstly, the Queen probably isn't a Nazi. She probably isn't a rampant lefty either, but I am pretty sure she found the wholesale slaughter of millions of people by the Nazis in WWII as abhorrent as any reasonable person would.

However, that's not to say the photograph is not newsworthy. It's not newsworthy as an exposé of Her Maj as a fan of Hitler but it is newsworthy from a historical viewpoint. It's a story that would be better placed in a history magazine rather than The Sun's front page but it is still interesting to consider how close Britain came to having a serious Nazi sympathiser on the throne before Edward abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, a woman whose support for Hitler is hardly a state secret. The British monarch is meant to be apolitical but only the seriously naive believe that royals have no opinions and have never tried to influence the government of the day.

The Queen was six years old when the photo was taken so it is ridiculous to think she'd have any idea what the Nazi salute stood for any more than I knew what I was talking about when, aged four, my party piece was to inform houseguests that the Australian Prime Minister of the time had a face like a bum. I've since revised my views on Malcolm Fraser just as the Queen, in all likelihood, didn't cheer on Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939.

But it is certainly absurd to think that the Queen Mother had no idea about Nazi ideology in 1933. Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and by 1933, it had been translated in English and The Times ran excerpts to expose Hitler's racist agenda. She was not living in a vacuum. An ivory tower, yes, but not a vacuum. It would be unbelievable to think she was in blissful ignorance about Hitler's ideologies. She would not have been aware of the full horror of the concentration camps as those horrific places were in their nascent stages in 1933 but she must have had some inkling about his views on race.

The Sun probably knew that running this story on the front page was not going to damage the monarchy - and that people would indeed rush to the defence of the Queen. I am an avowed republican but I do not think this story is necessarily the best way to argue for a British republic. There are plenty of great arguments for a British republic and it would behoove British republicans to share them rather than feeding the troll that is The Sun.

Picture by Karen Arnold.

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