The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge just finished their tour in Canada, but on the other side of the world, a quieter, equally important royal visit was taking place. In late September, Charles, Prince of Wales (in a royal yarmulke) recently went to Israel for the funeral of that country's former president, Shimon Peres. It was his first time in Israel in two decades.
Politics and Family
The British royal family generally has a policy of not going to Israel, so this was a pretty important first...and Charles even got to visit his grandma's grave while he was there. Over the years, Charles has gone to many other countries in the Middle East, but stopping over in Israel has been minimal. The Queen herself has never been there. Why? Common opinion has it that the royals are uncomfortable going to Israel before a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached.
They don't want to get caught up in the political implications of officially visiting the State of Israel. As a result, any time the British royals have gone to Israel in the past 65 years, it's been termed a "personal" visit, rather than an official one. It's worth noting that British officials past and present, like Boris Johnson and David Cameron, were also in attendance at the funeral.
But Charles does have a good personal reason to go visit Israel. He went to visit the grave of his paternal grandmother, Princess Andrew of Greece (born Princess Alice of Battenberg), for the first time, and laid flowers from Scotland on her grave. Prince Philip has visited his mother's grave only a handful of times; when he did so in 1994, he had to tiptoe around both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to avoid offending either party.
Alice, Queen of Hearts
What brought Alice to Jerusalem in the first place? Her remarkable life story starts in England, where she was born at Windsor Castle in 1885, a maternal great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Alice's mother was Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine (a sister of the ill-fated last Tsaritsa of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna) and Alice was a granddaughter of Victoria's tragic daughter Alice, who watched a bunch of her children die young.
Princess Alice of Battenberg. Image via Philip de László/Wikimedia Commons.
When she was four, it was discovered that Alice was almost entirely deaf. But Alice adapted as she always did, becoming a fabulous lip reader. When her great-uncle King Edward VII was crowned, she met his nephew-in-law, Prince Andrew of Greece, and fell head-over-heels for the hunky bachelor; she later told Charles that his grandfather looked like a "Greek god." The two married and had four daughters before having a longed-for son in Philip, but footloose Andrew was rarely home amidst political chaos in Greece. He eventually set himself up in France, while Alice suffered a nervous breakdown and Philip was sent to boarding school.
Philip wound up having a tough childhood in the care of more distant relatives, but Alice kept going even after such trauma. She worked with the Red Cross and must have been heartbroken during World War II, as all four of her daughters married German princes and she herself was mostly German, though her son was in England at the time. But Alice didn't turn her back on those who needed her, sheltering a Jewish widow and her family in the 1940s and fending off the Gestapo by pretending not to understand their questions. These heroics earned her the title of "Righteous Among the Nations."
Alice and Andrew. Image via Henry Walter Barnett/Wikimedia Commons.
Alice went on to found an order of nuns after the war and moved to England to be near her son and his young family. She died in 1969; almost twenty years after her death, Alice was reinterred in Jerusalem, near her maternal aunt, the late Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia (a princess-turned-nun) on the Mount of Olives. Interestingly, Prince Philip's DNA was compared to that of the murdered last Romanovs and was used to confirmed that Nicholas II and his family (Anastasia was his second cousin) all died.