By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Max Foster and Carolyn Sung, CNN
The new Prince and Princess of Wales touched down in Boston Wednesday ahead of the second iteration of the Earthshot Prize Awards later this week, in their first trip to the United States since 2014.
The couple flew into the city on a commercial flight as controversy erupted back home, after an aide resigned following “unacceptable and deeply regrettable” remarks to a Black executive visiting Buckingham Palace earlier this week.
Lady Susan Hussey — a godmother to Prince William who served as Queen Elizabeth II’s lady in waiting for six decades — was identified by British media as the aide who made the remarks at a palace event on Tuesday, where she repeatedly asked a Black British charity founder where she was “really” from.
Charity boss Ngozi Fulani said that after identifying herself as British-born to the aide at the royal reception, the aide asked her “where do you really come from;” “where do your people come from;” and “when did you first come here?”
A spokesman for William said: “Racism has no place in our society, these comments were unacceptable. It’s right that the individual concerned has stepped down.”
Kensington Palace denounced the incident, saying the remarks were “unacceptable” and that it was “right that the individual concerned has stepped aside with immediate effect.”
The trip is a chance for William to showcase how he intends to adapt to his new Prince of Wales role from his predecessor, while Catherine will hope to charm the public — as her new title’s former holder effortlessly did — but on her own terms.
William founded his climate change prize back in 2020 in the hope of harnessing the world’s smartest minds to confront some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing humanity. Each year for the next decade, five winners will receive £1 million (around $1.12 million) to fund their creative solutions to the climate crisis.
The heir to the British throne was inspired to launch the project by President John F. Kennedy’s “moonshot” speech in 1962 when he tasked the US to push forward with space exploration.
Hundreds gathered at Speaker’s Corner outside City Hall despite pouring rain and biting temperatures to get a glimpse of the royal couple. The crowd screamed and cheered as the pair walked outside with city officials.
Taking the podium, Prince William told well-wishers he and wife, Catherine were “absolutely delighted to be with you today, for our first engagement in the great city of Boston, as we start the countdown to The Earthshot Prize Awards this Friday.”
The 40-year-old royal said Boston was “the obvious choice” for this year’s ceremony as the former president’s hometown and “because your universities, research centers and vibrant start-up scene make you a global leader in science, innovation and boundless ambition.
“Like President Kennedy, Catherine and I firmly believe that we all have it in ourselves to achieve great things, and that human beings have the ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve,” William continued.
“We cannot wait to celebrate the Earthshot Prize finalists later on this week, and we are both looking forward to spending the next few days learning about the innovative ways the people of Massachusetts are tackling climate change,” he added.
The couple were then joined by Mayor Michelle Wu and Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey to help formally start the city’s Earthshot celebrations, and with the push of a button lit the civic building and other landmarks in green.
Their busy schedule on Wednesday saw them attend a Boston Celtics game against Miami Heat in downtown Boston. They were seated courtside for the game alongside Healey.
Resetting royal perceptions
While William and Kate’s stateside trip is not an official royal tour, the senior royals aren’t simply parachuting in for a glittering ceremony on Friday night. Instead, they have a jam-packed three-day visit during which they will turn their spotlight onto initiatives in some of Boston’s most hard-pressed communities and meet with local indigenous leaders.
A Kensington Palace spokesperson told CNN the couple were eager for more time in Boston so they could get to know communities and learn about the climate-related challenges facing the coastal city.
Before the fresh racism row emerged, the couple’s trip had also being seen by some as an opportunity to reset perceptions in the US after a damaging few years. New seasons of Netflix show “The Crown” have revived old criticisms of the monarchy, while the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey tarnished the family’s reputation.
They claimed family members had made racist remarks and the institution had abandoned Meghan when she admitted contemplating suicide while pregnant with their first child, Archie. William subsequently defended the monarchy, stating, “we’re very much not a racist family.”
Incidentally, days after this tour, Harry and Meghan are set to pick up an award for their work through their Archewell Foundation on race, mental health and social impact. The Sussexes were recently named as recipients of the 2022 Ripple of Hope award by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization (RFKHR). They join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky among others being honored this year.
Announcing the accolade last month, RFKHR President Kerry Kennedy said the couple “has always stood out for their willingness to speak up and change the narrative on racial justice and mental health around the world.”
“They embody the type of moral courage that my father once called the ‘one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.'”
There are no plans for the brothers and their spouses to catch up while in the same country. Their priority is Earthshot and they are savvy enough to know a family gathering would overshadow their objectives.
Instead, the senior royals will be hoping to focus the public’s attention on the causes they champion and the work they do during their stay in the US.
“The prize has become the prince’s Superbowl moment of the year, and he looks forward to continuing to use the platform each year to shine a light on some of the most impactful projects doing amazing things around the world to save our planet’s future,” a Kensington Palace spokesperson said.
One meeting that is on the cards is a catch-up with the US President Joe Biden, who will greet the pair while visiting Boston for a fundraiser on Friday, according to the White House.
Star-studded prize ceremony
The visit to the US culminates in the star-studded Earthshot ceremony grand finale on Friday, which will unite innovation with entertainment.
Singers Annie Lennox, Billie Eilish and Ellie Goulding will perform, and the five winners will be announced by presenters that include Oscar winner Rami Malek, actress Shailene Woodley and Catherine O’Hara of “Schitt’s Creek” fame.
British broadcaster Clara Amfo will return to co-host the awards with actor Daniel Dae Kim. British veteran broadcaster, naturalist and all-round national treasure David Attenborough is also set to feature in the glittering extravaganza.
The awards will be broadcast in the UK on Sunday on BBC at 5:30 p.m. GMT. It’s set to air on PBS on December 14 but will start streaming on the broadcaster’s website and app on Monday. Viewers across Africa will also be able to catch the ceremony Monday when it premieres on Multichoice channels at 5:00 p.m. WAT.
Correction: The trip is Prince William and Kate’s first to the US since 2014. This story has been corrected to remove an editing error that inaccurately described the date of their last trip.
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