LONDON – In the classic Monty Python movie “Life of Brian,” the hapless title character is accosted by a crowd that believes he is the Jewish Messiah. None of his denials makes the slightest bit of difference — quite the opposite: “Only the true Messiah denies His divinity,” says one girl.
A similar situation seems to be unfolding in Britain where, no matter how many experts issue denials, the crowds online seem ever more insistent that Kate Middleton is descended from Jews — and that therefore, the new royal baby, Prince George Alexander Louis, will not be the latest in a long line of Protestant kings, but England’s very first Yiddishe monarch.
Just three days old, the young prince has already managed to unite two usually opposite camps, the anti-Semites and the Jews. It’s hard to tell who’s keener on the idea.
Even Birthright has got in on the act, creating an infant garment which says on the front, ‘His Royal Highness. Future Birthright Israel participant, 2031’
On the anti-Semitic side, there are endless forums discussing whether Kate is “tainted” by Jewish blood, while Iran’s Mehr News Agency warns, in mangled English, that her marriage ceremony in Westminster Cathedral was a sham.
“This lady’s family roots show that she is considered a Sephardic Jew from her mother’s side. Moreover the timing of the wedding and the way it was held which was based on Jewish culture verify the evidences…. William’s marriage as the inheritor of the crown to a Jewish girl will leave the future of Britain to the hands of the couple’s Jewish children.”
Most of the Jewish sources quote an “Orthodox Sephardi rabbi in Israel” — unnamed, unsurprisingly — saying that Kate’s mother’s parents were both Jewish, but on the whole tend to accept that it’s probably not true. Not that anyone lets the facts get in the way of a good story: “I say we send some Chabadniks after her,” suggests thecooljew.net. “Get her to start lighting candles and going to the Royal Mikveh. Maybe William will eventually convert.”
Even Birthright has got in on the act, creating an infant garment which says on the front, “His Royal Highness. Future Birthright Israel participant, 2031.”
So what are the chances that the young Prince George will qualify for the free trip to Israel? Slim to none, and slim just left town.
The Times of Israel approached no less an (ostensible) authority than Michael Cole, the BBC’s former royal correspondent, who had a letter published in the Times of London last month (and cited by the New York Post last week), asserting that Kate’s mother, Carole Middleton, “is the daughter of Ronald Goldsmith and Dorothy Harrison, both Jews. The parents of Dorothy were Robert Harrison and Elizabeth Temple, both Jews. Elizabeth was descended from the Myers, a distinguished 19th century Jewish family.” Cole added in the letter: “The Duchess of Cambridge is a Jew on her matriarchal side and therefore her baby will be a Jew, according to Jewish law and tradition.” And he suggested that “a wise choice” of name might be Solomon.
‘Mrs Middleton, born Goldsmith, is a talented businesswoman… You don’t have to live in a monastery to know that Jewish people are good in business’ — Michael Cole
Unfortunately for the royal Jew-hopers, Cole sounded a little more circumspect over the phone, admitting that “it is only circumstantial evidence.”
Like everyone else, he relied entirely on the fact that the names in Kate’s family tree – Goldsmith, Harrison, Myers and Temple – sound Jewish, and surmises that they were originally members of the tribe. “There used to be a very strong impetus on Jewish people in Britain and elsewhere to marry out and hide their Jewish antecedents,” he told The Times of Israel.
Asked whether he has any positive evidence that this is actually the case for Kate’s family, Cole explained that “Mrs Middleton, born Goldsmith, is a talented businesswoman… You don’t have to live in a monastery to know that Jewish people are good in business” – and referred us to his original source, a Jewish solicitor friend, who claimed he was “really not qualified to advise [you] properly.”
According to Laurence Harris, former chairman of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain and a regular adviser to the genealogical television program “Who Do You Think You Are,” there is no evidence of Jewish branches in Kate’s family tree– “yet,” he added cautiously.
The “Jewish” surnames were also used by non-Jews, and “there is no evidence of synagogue marriages or Jewish burials,” Harris noted. On the contrary, there are solid records of church weddings among Carole’s ancestors going back at least five generations.
The office of the British Chief Rabbi, which keeps records of marriages in the Orthodox United Synagogue, says that previous publications debunking the Middletons’ Jewish heritage “make the issue completely clear.”
While Harris accepts that this is not definitive proof either way, he noted that the ancestors largely lived in areas and pursued occupations that were not typical of Jews in that era. Carole’s great-grandfather John Goldsmith, for example, born in 1851, was a laborer in Middlesex near London. Joseph Temple, another of Carole’s great-great-grandparents, was an iron miner in Yorkshire, as was his son Thomas. Both were married in their local parish churches. Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth Myers, came from county Durham in north East England, which was not a Jewish area. Her father, Joseph, was an agricultural laborer.
The rumors of Kate’s Jewish ancestry, which Harris began to research as soon as her engagement became likely, “started as soon as there was an indication of her potential involvement in the royal family,” he said.
Quite why they flourish — despite all evidence to the contrary — is unclear. Perhaps it’s just too much fun to speculate about the Jewish royals, rather than admit for once and for all — with apologies again to Monty Python — that the new Prince George is “not a Jewish king. He’s a very naughty goy!”