President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter of condolence to Queen Elizabeth II over the death of her husband, Prince Philip, who was the first UK royal to ever visit Israel, the president’s office announced Tuesday.
Rivlin expressed his “sorrow and sympathy” to the queen, who lost her husband after 74 years of marriage.
“His Royal Highness was a man of honor and duty, and his service in the Royal Navy, defending the United Kingdom and fighting the Axis powers will never be forgotten,” Rivlin wrote in the letter, dated April 9 — the day Buckingham Palace announced Phillip’s death at 99.
The president also brought attention to the Duke of Edinburgh’s connection to Israel and the Jewish people: “His mother, Princess Alice, also played an important part in protecting victims of the Nazi regime, and we are proud that she is recognized as one of the Righteous Amongst the Nations.”
“Her burial here in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives links the stories of our peoples even more closely,” the president wrote.
In 1994, Prince Philip made a historic visit to Israel. Although the trip was a personal one, made to honor his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, it marked the end of an unofficial boycott of the Jewish state by the British monarchy. His grandson Prince William made the first official royal visit in 2018.
The duke’s mother was recognized as one of fewer than 30,000 “righteous among the nations,” for saving three members of a Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of Greece. Prince Phillip visited her burial site, met with members of the Cohen family she had hidden in her Athens palace. He also met with Jewish veterans of World War II.
Rivlin expanded on this visit in his letter, quoting Philip’s speech at Yad Vashem: “Recalling his own brush with Nazism at Salem School in Germany, he spoke about the lessons he had learned from his mother’s courageous act.
“‘We may dislike individual people, we may disagree with their politics and opinions, but that should never allow us to condemn their whole community simply because of the race or religion of its members. …The Holocaust may be over, but there are altogether too many examples in the world today of man’s capacity for inhumanity,’ he said. How true, and how sad.”
Philip over the years spoke multiple times at Jewish and pro-Israel events. He had a passion for environmental preservation, addressed several Jewish National Fund gatherings, and lent his royal sponsorship to other Jewish causes.
“Your Majesty, I also know that alongside your husband’s life of service to the nation and the world, he was also a family man – a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The passing of a loved one, after so many years together, is a great loss. My thoughts are with you and the entire Royal Family at this time of grief and pain,” Rivlin wrote.
The queen, a very private person not given to extravagant displays of affection, once called him “her rock” in public.
“In Jewish tradition, we console mourners with the phrases ‘may his memory be a blessing,’ and ‘I wish you a long life.’ I hope they are a consolation to you,” Rivlin signed his letter.
Agencies contributed to this report.