A life-saving Jewish connection, if new UK princess named Alice
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A life-saving Jewish connection, if new UK princess named Alice

Baby’s great-great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, is buried in Jerusalem, and was recognized as a ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ for hiding Jewish family from the Nazis

The newborn daughter of Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, outside St. Mary's Hospital's exclusive Lindo Wing, London, Saturday, May 2, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
The newborn daughter of Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, outside St. Mary's Hospital's exclusive Lindo Wing, London, Saturday, May 2, 2015. (photo credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Bookmakers Sunday touted Alice and Charlotte as the most likely names for Britain’s newborn princess, the second child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, who was born Saturday.

The name Alice has particular resonance for the Jewish people: The newborn’s great-great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, is buried in Jerusalem, and was recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial as a “Righteous Among the Nations” and by the British government as a “Hero of the Holocaust.”

During the Nazi occupation of Greece, Alice hid a Jewish woman and two of her children from the Nazis.

In 1994, the newborn’s great-grandfather, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip, visited Israel for a ceremony to mark his mother’s valor.

Born in 1885 as Princess Alice of Battenberg and congenitally deaf, she spent much of her life in Greece after marrying Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (he was simultaneously prince of two different European countries).

Queen Elizabeth II's mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Battenberg, with one of her daughters circa 1910. (Wikimedia Commons/JTA)
Queen Elizabeth II’s mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Battenberg, with one of her daughters circa 1910. (Wikimedia Commons/JTA)

Alice moved to London in 1967 to live in Buckingham Palace with her son and daughter-in-law, the present queen. After the princess died two years later, her body was interred in a crypt at Windsor Castle.

But in 1988, she was transferred to a crypt at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives – honoring a wish she had expressed before her death.

In October 1994, on a trip that marked the first time that a member of the British royal family had visited the State of Israel, Philip attended a ceremony honoring his mother at Yad Vashem.

Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, met with members of the Cohen family whom his mother hid in her Athens palace for 13 months during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

At the ceremony at Yad Vashem, he accepted the Righteous Among the Nations award that was bestowed posthumously upon his late mother.

He also planted a maple tree in her memory along the Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations, which commemorates gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

“God brings everything we do to judgment,” the prince wrote in the visitors’ book at Yad Vashem.

Prior to the ceremony, Philip visited the crypt in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives, where his mother’s coffin lies.

In September of 1943, members of the Cohen family, from the Greek town of Trikala, appealed to Princess Alice for refuge. An acquaintance of theirs, she took them in and hid them until the Nazis withdrew in October 1944.

The story was not known until the early 1990s, when Michel Cohen, 78, told officials at Yad Vashem of how he, his mother and sister were saved by the princess.

The surviving members of the Cohen family flew to Israel from France to attend the ceremony in 1994.

Philip, accompanied by his sister Princess Sophie, was met at Ben-Gurion Airport by the then-education minister Amnon Rubinstein. While the visit was considered a private one, Rubinstein said it reflected Israel’s changed status in light of the then ongoing peace process with the Palestinians. “It is another sign of the much warmer and better relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom,” Rubinstein said.

Britain's Prince William stands close to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, as she carries their newborn baby princess as they leave St. Mary's Hospital's exclusive Lindo Wing, London, Saturday, May 2, 2015.  (photo credit: John Stillwell/Pool via AP)
Britain’s Prince William stands close to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, as she carries their newborn baby princess as they leave St. Mary’s Hospital’s exclusive Lindo Wing, London, Saturday, May 2, 2015. (photo credit: John Stillwell/Pool via AP)

The guessing game over the new princess’s name continued in high gear Sunday.

When the baby’s older brother, Prince George, was born in 2013, the royal couple took two days to reveal his name, waiting until after Queen Elizabeth II had met her new great-grandson.

Britain’s legal bookmakers have been busy taking in thousands of bets for the baby’s name. For weeks, they have been saying that Alice is the clear favorite. But in recent days Charlotte, the feminine form of Charles, has become the front runner.

Other top possibilities included Olivia, Victoria, Elizabeth, Alexandra and Diana, the name of William’s late mother.

The newborn may herald a new generation in the monarchy, but it is customary for royals to look to their past for name ideas. The repetition of names in each generation is at least partly an effort to preserve the continuity of one of the world’s oldest institutions.

A princess called Charlotte — a name that is French in origin — would be a nod to her grandfather, Prince Charles. In royal history, George IV named his only child Charlotte, but she died in childbirth at 21. George III’s wife was Queen Charlotte, who was born 1744.

As for Alice, apart from being the name of Philip’s mother, Queen Victoria named her second daughter Princess Alice.

Many think it is likely that William and Kate would use the name Diana — though probably as one of the baby’s middle names to avoid comparisons with her late grandmother. Like most royals, the baby’s brother, Prince George, has more than one middle name (George Alexander Louis), and the same treatment is expected for her.

William and Kate introduced the baby princess Saturday evening to the world, just 12 hours after Kate checked into London’s St. Mary’s Hospital to give birth. The baby weighed in at 8 pounds, 3 ounces (3.7 kilograms).

The couple issued a statement of thanks Sunday in response to the outpouring of goodwill and international interest in their baby.

“The Duke and Duchess are hugely grateful for the messages of congratulations they have received from people all over the world,” their press office said in a statement. “It means a great deal to them that so many people have celebrated the arrival of their new daughter.”

The princess is fourth in line to the British throne, after her grandfather Charles, her father William and her older brother George. She will be known formally as Her Royal Highness, Princess (name) of Cambridge.

William’s father and stepmother, Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, went to Kensington Palace on Sunday to visit the baby for the first time, joining Kate’s parents Michael and Carole Middleton and her sister Pippa.

Prince Harry, who is in Australia, said about his new niece: “She is absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to meet her.”

The royal couple is expected to spend several days at their London home before traveling to their country home on the queen’s sprawling Sandringham estate, 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of London. The family is likely to stay out of the public eye in the coming days.

The princess’s birth has mesmerized much of Britain, eclipsing the country’s hard-fought election campaign on the front pages of British newspapers. A number of London landmarks including Tower Bridge were lit in pink overnight to commemorate her birth.

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