The descendants of a Jewish family who survived the Holocaust after being sheltered by the Duke of Cambridge’s great-grandmother thanked him personally for her heroism, telling them: “We all owe our existence to the courage of Princess Alice”.
The Cohen family, who on Tuesday spent time privately with the Duke at the residence of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, told him of their “difficult but beautiful” family history, in an “extremely moving” encounter during his tour to Israel.
The Duke, who later found himself embroiled in the Middle Eastern peace process after being asked to convey diplomatic messages, said the deeds of Princess Alice, the mother of the Duke of Edinburgh who protected Jews from the Gestapo in her Athens home, were of “great pride for my whole family”.
The meeting was a deeply personal moment for the Duke on a day when he also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, honouring the memory of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis as he laid a wreath.
He said later: “I am well aware that the responsibility falls now to my generation to keep the memory alive of that great crime as the Holocaust generation passes on – and I commit myself to doing this.”
The first full day of the Duke’s trip to Israel saw him meet with Mr Netanyahu and his wife Sara, before spending time with Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president.
In a deviation from what was intended to be a non-political visit, Mr Rivlin told the Duke he was arriving “not just as a prince but as a pilgrim to the Holy Land”, before appealing for his help as an envoy in the peace process.
“I know you are going to meet [Palestinian Authority] president Abbas,” he said. “I am asking you to send a message of peace.
“It is about time that we have to find together the way to build confidence as a first step to bringing an end to the tragedy between us that has gone on for more that 100 years.”
The Duke said in a speech at the British Embassy: “This region has a complicated and tragic history… Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed. I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbours, for a just and lasting peace.”
David Quarrey, Britain’s ambassador to Israel, said: “We’ve obviously got a very strong interest in seeing progress from where we are now but I don’t think the Duke will be taking a particular political message.”
Philippe, 31, and Evy Cohen, 62, who were at the embassy garden party, said their meeting had been “extremely moving for all sides”, giving them the opportunity to tell the Duke how Princess Alice – made Righteous Among The Nations in 1993 for her actions – gave their ancestors a home.
They are descendants of the sons of Rachel Cohen, who was so loyally protected by Princess Alice that she once deflected their near-certain discovery by telling the Gestapo that her deafness had left her so confused that she could not possibly let them search her home.
Princess Alice, who went on to become a nun and eventually moved into Buckingham Palace, died aged 84 in 1969.
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Sussex teamed up with the Queen on Tuesday evening for their second joint engagement in less than two weeks, to host a reception at Buckingham Palace with Prince Harry.
The event, also attended by David Beckham and Sir Lenny Henry, saw awards handed out to winners of the Queen’s Young Leaders for 2018, which celebrates the achievements of young people across the Commonwealth.
Duke honours Holocaust victims at memorial
The Duke of Cambridge learnt about the individual stories of Holocaust victims through their possessions, other artefacts and moving testimonies as he paid his respects to the millions killed by the Nazi regime.
William was taken on a guided tour of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, which recounts the extermination of six million Jewish people during the Second World War.
Video: Prince William visits Holocaust memorial
The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joined William for his visit and was later due to play part in a simple but moving ceremony in the museum’s Hall of Remembrance where the duke will lay a wreath.
Later, William will visit the city of Jaffa where he will meet young people involved in the work of two organisations focused on co-existence through football between the youngsters of different religious and ethnic communities – the Equaliser and the Peres Centre for Peace.
He will attend a football event hosted by the two charities and will have a chance to spend time with children and teenagers involved in several of their projects, including one focused on empowering young girls.
In the evening, the Duke will give a speech at a reception at the residence of Britain’s Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, before returning to Jerusalem.
Prince William visits ruins where wife was pictured as child
The Duke of Cambridge has visited the spot in a Roman ruined city in Jordan where his wife posed for a picture when she was a little girl.
The Duke told how the Duchess "loved" living in Jordan as a youngster, in a speech after he arrived in the country on the first day of an historic visit to the Middle East.
And he was able to see for himself the beautifully preserved first century Roman city of Jerash where the Duchess, father Michael and sister Pippa visited in the 1980s and posed as a trio for a picture.
Video: Prince William visits Jerash ruins
The Duchess went to an English language nursery while her parents were in the country for almost three years, before they returned to Berkshire in 1986.
Samia Khouri, director of museums at the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, guided the two princes around the sprawling site during a half-hour tour.
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She said: "He was very surprised when he saw the photo he did not expect that. But that’s why he was here, because he wanted to take a photo at the same spot where Kate was photographed."
During William’s visit, the site hosted a celebration for young people benefiting from the Makani programme, a nationwide charity that works with those from deprived backgrounds, especially refugee communities.
Later, the Duke travelled to the north of the country to visit a new base for the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), which has been formed with British military support.
The Duke and The Crown Prince visit a new base for the Quick Reaction Force, which has been formed in Jordan with British Military support. pic.twitter.com/TomAY7TPfk
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) June 25, 2018
The Duke watched the QRF practising pre-deployment drills and also met British officers on attachment to the Jordanian armed forces.
He will later visit the Dar Na’mah Centre – a project of the Princess Taghrid Institute (PTI), a charity established by Princess Taghrid to support women of all ages to develop their own livelihoods and support their families and communities.
At the Al Quds College William will meet a number of young Jordanians and Syrian refugees who are enrolled in its media school, training in film and music production as part of the college’s partnership with Middlesex University.
The Duke will end his visit to Jordan at Marka airport where he will chat to Jordanian Air Ambulance crews and look over their helicopters before flying to Israel for the next leg of his Middle East tour.
Duke of Cambridge hails Jordan as ‘beacon of hope’
The Duke of Cambridge hailed Jordan as a "beacon of hope" for the Middle East, as he spoke of his wife’s fond childhood memories of living there, and addressed the plight of Palestinian refugees.
The Duke is being hosted by Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, the 23-year-old Sandhurst-trained second lieutenant in the Jordanian army with whom the Duke hopes to build a firm friendship.
The Duke earlier used his first speech of a landmark tour to reference some of the region’s difficulties, ahead of a high-stakes official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories: a first for the Royal family.
Saying Jordan should be "enormously proud" of opening its borders to those fleeing Syria, he said the country’s "longstanding commitments to Palestinian refugees" was "remarkable".
Speaking at a garden party in honour of the Queen’s birthday, he delivered a message from his grandmother who recalled the "special bond of friendship" she shared with the late King Hussein after they ascended to the throne exactly one month apart in 1952.