Until 2018, no member of the British royal family had ever visited Israel in an official capacity, but the first to do so unofficially was Prince Philip, the late husband of Queen Elizabeth, who came in 1994 to a ceremony at Yad Vashem honoring his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, for rescuing Jews from the Nazis. Philip indeed had a long record of sympathy for Jews and Jewish state. While researching a book about Anglo-Jewish photographers, the historian Michael Berkowitz interviewed the duke of Edinburgh, and recalls the meeting:
Sterling Henry Nahum, [the Jewish photographer] known as “Baron,” asserted that he was intimate with the royal couple and especially friendly with Prince Philip. . . . Baron’s account, though not exactly a literary masterpiece, struck me as sincere, [and] his photos of then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip . . . inspired me to dig deeper. The couple appeared relaxed, even jovial when Baron was behind the camera. I thought this revealed a level of comfort they didn’t share with other photographers. I wondered: what were their own feelings about Baron? So I wrote to the queen in November 2011 and she suggested that I contact her husband separately.
I met with Prince Philip in his library, in Buckingham Palace, for some 45 minutes. . . . Prince Philip confirmed that Baron’s account was solid and that Baron was, indeed, his best friend—and squash partner. He did not recall if he ever knew about Baron’s specific ethnic or religious background, except for him being foreign. . . . One of the [other] questions I had for the duke was, in fact, about his wife’s relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz. . . . He said they got on “like a house on fire.”
I appreciate, immensely, the honestly, generosity, and humility of the duke of Edinburgh. He shook my hand (what a grip!), we sat down (alone), talked seriously and quickly, and had more than a few loud laughs between us.