Prince William’s Jerusalem visit highlights unique ancestor

Source: Associated Press

By ARON HELLER

JERUSALEM (AP) — When Prince William caps his historic royal tour of the Middle East with a visit to the holy city of Jerusalem, he’ll not only be venturing into the epicenter of world religion and regional politics but also, oddly, into a long overlooked chapter of his own family.

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The prince will make a pilgrimage Thursday to the tomb of his great-grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg and Greece, one of the more unusual characters in royal history, whose last wishes were to have her remains buried in a crypt below a Russian Orthodox church in east Jerusalem.

The deaf great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria lived a modest life, struggled with mental illness and saw three of her daughters marry prominent Nazi supporters before establishing an order of nuns. But the mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II is particularly lauded in Israel for sheltering persecuted Jews during the Holocaust.

The prince’s visit to the Jewish state, the first official one of a member of the British royal family, has shone a light on the lesser-known side of his family tree. Visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, he noted with pride that his great-grandmother had been recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations, the highest honor Israel grants to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Princess Alice hid three members of the Cohen family in her palace in Athens during the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II. Yad Vashem said she saw to everything they needed “and even visited them in their hiding place, spending many hours in their company.”

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