British royal watchers continued aflutter on Wednesday as speculation mounted about the possibility that the baby prince would follow the tradition of his ancestors, and be circumcised within the week.
While the custom of royal circumcision has a centuries long history in Britain, Princess Diana is believed to have ended the tradition with Princes William and Harry, according to the London Evening Standard, leaving uncertainty as to whether the religious rite will be re-instated for the new generation.
Circumcision for members of the royal family in England dates back to King George I, who introduced the custom. Queen Victoria traced the British royal family’s tree back to ancient Israel’s King David, and insisted that her sons be circumcised along the lines of Jewish tradition, which calls for foreskin to be snipped on the eighth day after birth.
Edward VII, the Duke of Windsor and Prince Charles all had their foreskins removed, the latter by Jacob Snowman GP, at Buckingham Palace in 1948. Charles’ brothers Andrew and Edward were also snipped.
According to Anthony Holden’s biography of Prince Charles, cited by the Evening Standard, Jacob Snowman was summoned to the palace five days after Charles’s christening. Snowman was a mohel, a religious circumcision specialist, from London’s Jewish community, and he was chosen over the royal physician to perform the ritual.
Maurice Levenson, Secretary of the UK’s Initiation Society, told The Algemeiner that Dr. Snowman, who died in 1959, was Medical Officer of the Initiation Society for 27 years and was highly regarded as a surgeon-Mohel, and his responsibility for Prince Charles’s circumcision was well known in the community. Dr. Snowman’s son, Dr Leonard Snowman, also served as Medical Officer of the Society.
“Brit Milah is the Jewish religious ceremony that incorporates the surgical procedure and various prayers for the well-being and future success of the newborn, and the custom is that Jewish babies are given their names during the ceremony. I would imagine that the ‘religious’ aspect would have been omitted in the case of the Royal Family when the operation was carried out,” Levenson said.
The Initiation Society was established in 1745 to provide training for practitioners of circumcision in the Jewish Community and to ensure that every Jewish family in the UK could access the services of a Mohel regardless of their personal circumstances. In cases of need the Society also provided financial assistance to the families at the time a baby was born. The Society continues to this day training, authorizing and regulating Mohelim for the Jewish Community. It is the only regulatory body in the UK for Mohelim.
Although the rite was considered of vital importance over the past two centuries, Princess Diana was not interested, and royal watchers believe she decided not to have her son’s circumcised.
Royal biographer Hugo Vickers told the Evening Standard: “It’s largely a question of medical fashion. In my day they did. By 1980/2000 they didn’t.”