While in Israel for former President Shimon Peres’ funeral, Prince Charles, the Heir Apparent to the British throne, took advantage of the rare opportunity of being in the land to visit the burial site of his paternal grandmother on the grounds of the Church of Mary Magdalene.
Officials noted that the attendance of the Prince of Wales at the state funeral was in an official capacity, but the visit to the grave on the Mount of Olives, in contrast, was classified as private. This follows the protocol of restrictions imposed by the British royal house on all its members’ visits to Israel.
Despite being invited officially over the decades, British royalty stay away from Israel on principle. Prince Charles visited 21 years ago for the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin but as recently as 2015, the Daily Telegraph reported said that British royals were unlikely to visit Israel as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ongoing. A British government source said, “The Royal family can’t really go there. In Israel so much politics is caught up in the land itself that it’s best to avoid those complications altogether by not going there.”
Yet, Princess Alice of Battenberg, the mother of Charles’ father Prince Philip, lies in the very heart of Jerusalem per her request. Known as Righteous among the Nations, the princess was quite a fascinating person and is a historic figure in her own right. Later known as Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, she rescued a Jewish mother, Rachel Cohen, and two of her children during the Nazi occupation of Greece, hiding them in her Athens palace.
When the princess died in 1969, her body was laid to rest in a crypt at Windsor Castle, but in 1988 she was transferred to the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane as she had requested before she died.
Six years later in 1994, for the first time ever, a British royal family member visited the State of Israel when Prince Philip and his sister Princess Sophie attended a ceremony honoring their royal mother at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
At the time they also met with members of the Cohen family who their mother had sheltered for 13 months. At the ceremony, Prince Philip accepted the Righteous among the Nations award bestowed upon his mother posthumously. In the visitors’ book he wrote, “God brings everything we do to judgment.” In addition, he planted a maple tree in his mother’s memory along the Avenue of the Righteous among Nations.
Now, some two decades later, his son, Prince Charles, visited his grandmother’s grave for the first time. In a moving gesture, he placed flowers that he had picked himself from his Scottish garden in Birkhall and placed them on her final resting spot.