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LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) - Buckingham Palace criticised the top-selling Sun tabloid on Saturday for publishing a previously unknown film from 1933 that appears to show Britain's Queen Elizabeth performing a Nazi salute as a young girl.
The black-and-white film from the year Adolf Hitler came to power purports to show the future Edward VIII teaching his nieces, the current British monarch Elizabeth, aged about seven at the time, and her three-year-old sister, Princess Margaret, how to perform the salute.
Dancing and smiling with little apparent understanding of the salute's significance, the two young girls are encouraged to briefly perform the raised right-arm gesture by Edward in the gardens of Balmoral, a royal estate in Scotland.
The Sun newspaper published the story and the 17-second film on its website under the headline "Their Royal Heilnesses". Edward also raises his arm, as does his sister-in-law, the Queen Mother.
"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," a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.
Edward VIII abdicated after 11 months on the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite, for whom he publicly declared his love. He was succeeded by his younger brother, George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, now 89, will overtake Queen Victoria as Britain's longest-reigning monarch in September. She is widely popular.
Sun Managing Editor Stig Abell said the report was in the public interest and that the tabloid's eight-page coverage put it in the appropriate historical context.
He did not say how the newspaper, part of Rupert Murdoch's media business, obtained the footage.
"The purpose of this was never to embarrass the Queen or the palace," Abell told Sky News.
"You could not find a newspaper more supportive of the royal family than the Sun but you cannot find a newspaper more keen to publish stories in the public interest than the Sun," he said. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Keith Weir)