LONDON– The Prince and Princess of Wales’ first trip abroad since the death of Queen Elizabeth II begins on Wednesday, an opportunity to show the world as much about who they are not as who they are.
With their three-day visit to Boston, which focused on Prince William’s initiative to find the environmental entrepreneurs of a new generation, complemented by trips to an anti-poverty program, child development researchers and local flood relief agencies, the couple hopes to show they’re not the last remnants of a dying institution. Instead, Americans will see the younger face of a monarchy tackling vital issues while trying to stay relevant in modern, multicultural Britain.
The visit comes less than three months after the death of Elizabeth, whose personal popularity dampened criticism of the Crown during her 70-year reign. King Charles III, William’s father, has made it clear that he will be a slimmed down monarchy, with less pomp and celebration than its predecessors.
“I think it’s less about saving the earth and more about saving the royal family,” said Arianne Chernock, a Boston University professor and an expert on modern British history. “To be honest, we’ve seen Charles as king and his first few months in that position as he tried to find his way around, to find his way to becoming a more relevant, modern monarch. And I think we’re seeing something similar with William and Kate.”
Part of that reset is winning back the hearts and minds of the people of America, where William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, and sister-in-law Meghan have dominated the media since moving to California in 2020. Harry and Meghan have criticized the royal family for alleged racism and insensitive treatment, and built their own media profile by producing films and podcasts for Netflix and Spotify.
The Netflix series The Crown has also relived some of the House of Windsor’s more troubled times, including the collapse of Charles’ marriage to the late Princess Diana, William’s mother, amid mutual allegations of infidelity.
But William and Kate would like to tell a different story, about their work on environmental issues, mental health and early childhood education.
During a gala concert to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee in June, William gave a speech highlighting his grandmother and father’s pioneering work on the environment, as images of jungles and oceans were projected onto the walls of Buckingham Palace behind him.
Kate wrote an opinion piece last week about the need to improve the lives of young children, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph, one of Britain’s most influential newspapers, alongside a photo of the princess sitting cross-legged among a group of primary school children.
“Over the past 10 years, speaking to a variety of experts about how we deal with societal issues such as poor mental and physical health, I’ve become more and more certain of one thing: if we’re going to create a healthier, happier society For future generations, we must begin to understand and appreciate the unique importance of the first five years of life,” she wrote.
William and Kate’s last visit to the United States was in 2014, shortly after their wedding. During this trip, the glamorous young couple was celebrated as they toured the eastern United States
Eight years later, now in their 40s and with three young children, the prince and princess finally have a back engagement.
The choice of Boston, the birthplace of President John F. Kennedy, as a travel destination is symbolic. Kennedy’s 1962 speech setting out the goal of putting humans on the moon by the end of that decade inspired Williams’ Earthshot Prize, which aimed to find solutions to climate change and other environmental problems by the end of that decade.
The mission begins Wednesday, when William and Kate will meet with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and visit the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum with Caroline Kennedy, the late President’s daughter.
Later in the week they will visit Roca Inc. and highlight the racial justice group’s efforts to improve the lives of young people by addressing issues such as poverty, incarceration and trauma from urban violence. You’ll also visit Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, which is a leader in research into the long-term effects of early childhood experiences.
But throughout the journey, William’s eye will be on the Earthshot Prize.
By focusing specifically on the environment and climate change, the royals may strike a chord in the US, where many still deny the existence of man-made global warming, said author, social commentator and Washington Post contributor Sally Quinn . The royals’ ability to shed light on the subject and meld their fame with entertainers like Billie Eilish, who will be hosting the awards show, is likely to catch people’s attention.
Last but not least, it will put a face to the topic and make it more understandable than scientists’ technical presentations, Quinn said.
“Obviously the media and the attention will be good, not just because they’re celebrities and royals, but because they’re serious people who care,” Quinn said. “I mean, they’re not reckless. They are not party goers. They don’t dance on tables every night. They are really hardworking royals and they are issues that are important to them.”
Earthshot is offering £1 million (US$1.2 million) in prize money to winners in five different categories: Conservation, Clean Air, Ocean Revitalization, Waste Removal and Climate Change. The winners and all 15 finalists will also receive help to expand their projects to meet global demand.
Winners will be announced Friday at Boston’s MGM Music Hall during a glittering show featuring Eilish, Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and Chloe x Halle. The show will also feature videos narrated by naturalist David Attenborough and actress Cate Blanchett.
The BBC’s Clara Amfo and American actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim have been chosen to co-host. Presenters include actors Rami Malek, Catherine O’Hara and Shailene Woodley.
The ceremony is scheduled to air Sunday on BBC in the UK, PBS in the US and Multichoice across Africa.
“We’re at this moment where there are a lot of ways the royal family sees how it’s going to move forward and everyone really feels that Kate and William are the future of this institution,” Chernock said. “And that’s why we have to pay very close attention to how they present themselves to the public in Queen Elizabeth’s absence.”