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Alice: The Princess’s name that wasn’t and its Jewish connection


Princess Alice of Battenberg just before her marriage to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark

On Monday, Kensington Palace announced that The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had named their daughter Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, and that she would be known as Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. The name, which is the female version of Charles, was a favourite with the bookmakers, with odds set at 6/1.

Another hot favourite in the betting game was the name Alice. With odds of 5/4, it was touted by bookmakers as the most likely name for the little Princess. But Alice is more than just a pretty name – it holds a particular significance, both for the Royal Family and the Jewish community.

Alice was the name of Prince Philip’s mother, and the new Princess Charlotte’s great-great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. Born in 1885, she was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and was descended from The Queen through her third child, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine. As a child, Alice was diagnosed with congenital deafness, but learnt how to lip-read and could speak English and German.

In 1903, Alice married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, before moving to Greece with him. Together, the couple had five children, of which Prince Philip was the youngest.

In September 1943, during the Nazi occupation of Greece, a Jewish family, the Cohens, appealed to Alice for refuge. The Princess took Mrs Cohen and her two children in, and kept them safely hidden for over a year, until the Nazis finally withdrew. The tale of her kindness remained a secret until the 1990s, when Michael Cohen revealed how he, his mother and his sister had been saved by Princess Alice.

Prince Philip’s father, Prince Andrew, had died of heart failure just before the end of the war, leaving Princess Alice a widow. She spent her years in Greece, before moving to England in 1967, to stay at Buckingham Palace with her son and daughter-in-law. She died two years later, and was buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, in accordance with her final wishes.

In 1994, Prince Philip and his sister, Princess Sophie, visited Israel to attend a ceremony honouring their mother’s valour at Yad Vashem. The ceremony was also attended by the surviving members of the Cohen family, including the 78 year-old Michael Cohen. Prince Philip accepted the Righteous Among the Nations award on behalf of his late mother, and planted a maple tree in her memory.

“God brings everything we do to judgment,” he wrote in the visitors’ book, before visiting the crypt in the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, his mother’s final resting place.

Princess Alice of Battenberg has been recognised by the British government as a “Hero of the Holocaust.” She is among the members of the nobility who prevented the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and although William and Catherine have chosen to name their daughter Charlotte, her great-great-grandmother will always be a role model from the young Princess to look up to.

Photo credit: By Unknown photographer; The original uploader was Thyra at German Wikipedia(Original text: um 1906) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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