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Section: Stories   Category: Story Corner
The Rabbi Who Saved the Monarch

The queen of the British Empire, Victoria, and her husband Prince Consort Albert were visiting family in Hanover, Germany, when the unexpected happened; Queen Victoria went into labor two months before her due date. Moshe Montefiore, who was a financial advisor to the British government, arrived at the Court of Hanover during this time, and found the members of the Court in an uproar. The premature birth seemed inevitable, but it would pose a major problem. If the baby was born on German land, his right to succeed the throne may be endangered, since he would then be considered a German citizen.

Later that afternoon, Montefiore went to daven in the shul of Rabbi Nathan Adler, a Rav in Hanover. After mincha, he related the dilemma of the British Royal family to Rav Adler, and Rav Adler had a brilliant suggestion. He advised that the Queen be placed on an English ship, which would travel three kilometers from German land until it reached international waters. The baby, who would hopefully cooperate with these plans, would be born on a British ship in international waters, and would thereby be considered as if he was born on British land. Montefiore rushed to the Court to relay this advice, and the royal attendants rushed Queen Victoria to the British warship, the Arc Royal. Later that night, the Queen gave birth to a boy, who was destined to become King Edward VII.

Many years later, Queen Victoria saw a notice from the Dukes Place synagogue in London. The shul was seeking applicants for a rabbi, which was considered a very prominent position. Many rabbis from all over the world applied for the position, including Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. The Queen, however, was partial to a certain applicant, whose name she recognized from years before, Rabbi Nathan Adler. She sent a note to the shul, stating her preference for Rabbi Adler, who had come to her aid many years before. The shul did choose Rabbi Adler, but the Queen was not yet satisfied. She proposed that Rabbi Adler become the Chief Rabbi of England, or even of the entire British Empire. A bill was voted in Parliament to decide whether the British Empire should elect a chief Rabbi, and a majority chose Rabbi Adler as Chief Rabbi of the British Empire.

Rabbi Adler filled the post of Chief Rabbi for forty-five years. And throughout Queen Victoria's long reign (she lived until eighty-two), the Jews were treated positively, and were graced with more rights than Jews in other European countries. (Chance Encounters M.L. Mashinsky)


We received this interesting note from one of our readers. 

Good afternoon,

I just read your story on "The Rabbi Who Saved the Monarch":

I am British by birth, so it was obviously of interest to me.  Unfortunately, a little bit of research revealed that the story is most definitely not true.  Sorry!  Please read the exchange below for more details.

I suggest that you either replace the story or put in a disclaimer that it is "cute but not true".


Nachum Lamm recounts the fable (immortalised in a Mesorah Press book,
'Chance Encounters' by M. L. Moshinsky) of how Rabbi Nathan Marcus
Adler, helped by Moses Montefiore, caused Queen Victoria ("visiting the
heim") to give birth (according to the book, to the future King Edward
VII, her successor) on a British ship, thereby ensuring the correct
citizenship for her child. As a reward, "She was so greatful [sic] for
the advice that she made him Chief Rabbi of the UK".

Some facts:

1.  All of Queen Victoria's nine children were born in England - eight
in Buckingham Palace, and one at Windsor Castle.  None were born on a
ship .....

2.  The ship is named in the book as the "Arc [sic] Royal".  The first
Ark Royal sank in the seventeenth century; its successor was an aircraft
carrier built in 1938.

3.  N. M. Adler was *elected* Chief Rabbi in !844 by an assembly of
representatives of the three most important London congregations (" was found that he had been almost unanimously elected, with 121
votes out of a total of 143.")

4.  However, history does record the following (no doubt the
unembellished kernel of the 'ma'aseh'):

"The recommendations which he had presented were of the most cordial
nature: it was said that they were backed by private communications from
Queen Victoria's uncle, the Duke of Cambridge, who had come into contact
with him as Viceroy of Hanover. Because of his German origin and
upbringing, the Prince Consort found him congenial company; and family
legend [Adler family legend -- PS] tells how he, expert in the problems
of nationality, warned the Queen on an historic occasion of the legal
complications that might ensue were any of her children born in
Germany."  (C. Roth, "History of the Great Synagogue').

5.  Moses Montefiore is nowhere to be found ...

6.  Interestingly, one of the defeated candidates for the post of Chief
Rabbi was a young Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, whose application letter for the
post is printed in the Kluger edition of Hirsch's Teshuvot etc, "Shemesh

7.  Next, Mr. Lamm tells us that the Queen heard Rabbi Adler duchaning
(cf other postings -- not recorded whether this was Mincha, Neilah,
shabbat/Yomtov ...), and incorporated the chant into a Royal funeral
lament.  This, too, has a historical kernel, although apparently not
because Victoria heard it in the ezras noshim, as Adler died in
1890. The Jewish Encyclopaedia records (sv Blessing, Priestly) that the
niggun used in England was associated particularly with days on which
Yizkor was said: "From this it has come to be widely known as "Niggun
Metim" or "The Chant of the Dead." Its recent history is of particular
interest. Developed with insight and feeling by Cantor Naumbourg of
Paris, an instrumental arrangement was published in E. Pauer and
F. L. Cohen's "Traditional Hebrew Melodies," London, 1896, which
attracted the attention of the late Queen Victoria, and was played as
the introductory voluntary at several memorial services of the British
royal family."

8.  Finally, the closer association with Queen Victoria was of Nathan
Marcus Adler's son, Hermann Adler.  Hermann Adler, who served as
'Delegate Chief Rabbi' in the years when his father was indisposed and
had retired to Brighton, affected the dress and manners of an Anglican
bishop. Queen Victoria referred to him as 'my Chief Rabbi'.

I would like to thank Mr. Lamm for causing me an entertaining hour or so
rooting through some books and the internet, and apologise, if apology
be needed, for spoiling the story!

Paul Shaviv, Toronto.


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Visitor Comments: 1

VH, Colorado Springs, 2008-06-04 14:52:18
I am a International Poet named for
Queen Victoria. Reading the story
about her connection to the Jewish People was so uplifting. True or not true does not matter to me. I too have a spiritual connection to the Jewish People. Thank You, for the story. Victoria Heim

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