Stiff-Arm Salute: Must We Know Everything?
Claiming it is “historically relevant,” the Sun defended publication of a six-year-old Princess Elizabeth, coached by her mother the future Queen Elizabeth and her uncle the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII, still later the Duke of Windsor) raising her arm in the stiff salute now identified with the Nazi party. It’s “in the public interest,” wails the Sun.
It’s in the interest of selling newspapers. Buckingham Palace responded:
“Most people will see these pictures in their proper context and time. This is a family playing and momentarily referencing a gesture many would have seen from contemporary news reels. No one at that time had any sense how the salute 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.”
Quite so, and the stiff-armed salute lasted even longer in America, where schoolchildren used it in the Pledge of Allegiance from 1892 until 1942, when Congress amended the Flag Code. This was the so-called Bellamy Salute, conceived by the Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy. Is this really “historically relevant”?
It’s not news that the then-Prince of Wales was empty-headed enough to think Hitler & Co. were fascinating rather than frightening. He was not the only one to think that way in 1933-34. His foolishness continued well into the war. The most ludicrous example I know of is his message in 1940 to President Roosevelt, asking if the FDR might offer to mediate an end to the war. The Duke would publicly support the offer, and said the English would rise up in revolt, thus forcing a peace. The President responded to that by calling him “Little Windsor.”