A version of this story appeared in the December 2 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
This week’s newsletter is coming out a little later than normal – but for a good reason. We wanted to bring readers along to the grand finale of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ US visit – the Earthshot Prize Award ceremony.
The star-studded ceremony concluded on Friday evening in Boston, capping a challenging couple days for Prince William and Catherine.
Their first overseas visit in their new roles should have been an opportunity to showcase the modern monarchy and highlight the work the family does. But no sooner had they landed in America, than controversy blew up at home.
The timing couldn’t have been worse as allegations of racism emerged from within palace walls; a royal aide resigned and apologized over complaints that she had repeatedly asked a Black charity executive where she was “really from” during a reception hosted by the Queen Consort.
Buckingham Palace was quick to act as the scandal erupted and a spokesman for the Prince of Wales was forthright in condemning the incident during a press briefing around the visit in Boston.
Still, the first major controversy to grip the newly reorganized institution immediately overshadowed a visit that has been months in the making and dragged the royal family back into a debate from which it had sought to distance itself.
Many still vividly remember the comments the Duchess of Sussex made last year to Oprah Winfrey of her own experience of racism within the household.
Behind closed doors, the royals will be devastated that the issue of institutionalized racism has reared again. In recent years, the family has been trying to show how they are evolving the monarchy to reflect a more modern Britain and bolster diversity and inclusivity.
Whatever the senior royals may have been feeling privately, William and Kate embodied the British spirit of keeping calm and carrying on – even in the face of disastrously wet weather and traffic congestion – as they kicked off their trip with a special welcome and lighting ceremony for the climate prize on Wednesday. That first event saw further setbacks after two of the attendees – US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy and US climate envoy John Kerry – were unable to join at the last minute.
Refusing to be distracted from their goal of bringing the Earthshot Prize to the hometown of the man whose words inspired William to launch it – President John F. Kennedy – the second day of the trip saw the couple visit environmental tech entrepreneurs and a non-profit supporting disadvantaged young people at risk of urban violence.
Woman at center of Buckingham Palace controversy speaks out
But then, another unexpected development: a trailer for the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ Netflix docu-series dropped online out of the blue. No one had expected it and, once more, conversation was sidetracked from the tour.
There would have been a huge amount of frustration among William’s team that attention was once again being diverted elsewhere. It’s an unwritten rule that working royals don’t distract from one another’s trips. Prince Harry isn’t a working royal any longer and doesn’t need to abide by those rules, though we don’t know if he had any say over the streaming giant’s PR push.
Friday saw some semblance of royal trip normality return as the pair embarked on solo engagements: Kate visiting the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University while William headed to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. It was there he also met US President Biden, who was in Massachusetts Friday for a fundraising event.
During their half-hour catch-up, which Kensington Palace described as “friendly and substantive,” the two men shared “warm memories” of the late Queen Elizabeth II. The president was said to be interested in learning about some of the Earthshot Prize finalists and William “shared his global, long-term ambition for the prize.” The prince also used the moment to thank Biden for traveling to the United Kingdom in September for the late Queen’s funeral service.
Then the main event was upon us – the Earthshot Prize awards. As has been the case all trip, excited royal well-wishers turned out en masse. For the last three days, substantial crowds have gathered at engagements to warmly welcome the couple, several holding hand-made posters and bouquets of flowers for the pair. Many told us seeing the new Princess of Wales was a particular draw in deciding to brave the brisk temperatures.
And they didn’t seem disappointed – ear-splitting screams erupted at the sight of William and Kate on the recycled green carpet at the MGM Music Hall at Fenway. Eagle-eyed fans noticed quickly that the princess was wearing a necklace owned by the predecessor of her new title, Diana.
It was a star-studded occasion with the likes of Oscar winner Rami Malek, actress Shailene Woodley and Catherine O’Hara of “Schitt’s Creek” fame on hand to present some of the awards. The show also featured musical performances from Annie Lennox, siblings Chloe x Halle and Ellie Goulding.
Chatting with CNN on the carpet before the event, Malek commended William for carving out his role as the new royal champion of the environment.
“It’s extraordinarily inspiring. He is finding answers and the £1 million that are given to these five people, these five organizations, is something that keeps us from looking at the gloom and doom and the pessimism of it all, and looking toward the future of what we can come to do because when we put our ideas together, we can do extraordinary things,” said the 41-year-old “Bohemian Rhapsody” star.
He said he loved that William was inspired by former President John F. Kennedy and his challenge in the early 1960s to push Americans to accomplish greatness. “I think that’s exactly what’s happening here. We can push ourselves collectively to come up with extraordinary ideas, to do extraordinary things so we get to make sure that we enjoy this extraordinary world,” he continued, adding that he was “proud” to have been called upon to help.
Meanwhile, Lennox said she was keen to lend her support to William’s initiative for future generations. “It looks like a very almost glamorous event, but the situation is deadly serious and it needs to be taken far more seriously,” she told CNN. “It encourages me to see that the prince and princess have taken action on this.”
She shared that she had met with the couple the evening before, and described all the “distractions” of the week as “put aside” as they focused on their climate work.
She continued: “I think it’s very important that they actually play a significant role. A role that people can identify with truly, not just in a symbolic sense.”
Royal visits tend to come with their own challenges – and this trip perhaps a few more than anticipated. But the attention also meant everyone was watching the couple’s every move, asking why they were in America in the first place, and learning about Earthshot along the way.
The Earthshot Prize was created to try to find solutions to help us, in William’s words, “overcome our planet’s greatest challenges.” The competition is based around five “Earthshots” or environmental goals: “Protect and Restore Nature,” “Clean Our Air,” “Revive Our Oceans,” “Build a Waste Free World,” and “Fix Our Climate.” After a rigorous selection process, the five 2022 winners have finally been announced. Let’s meet the chosen few:
Clean Our Air: Mukuru Clean Stoves, Kenya.
Sometimes the best solutions are the most quotidian. This start-up provides cleaner-burning stoves to women in Kenya, aiming to prevent them having to cook on open fires and cookstoves, which can fill homes with toxic chemicals and endanger families’ health. This company was founded by women aiming to put a stop to these avoidable deaths.
Protest and Restore Nature: Khetyi, India.
With each year, India is being forced to adapt to life on the front line of climate change, as severe heat waves and pests devastate certain crops. But there may be a solution: the “Greenhouse-in-a-Box.” Rather than leaving crops exposed to the increasingly harsh elements, this initiative helps some of India’s 100 million small-hold farmers to shelter what they grow in compact greenhouses, which requires less water and increases yields. The scheme has been so successful that Khetyi’s farmers have reported doubling their incomes – and the start-up is hoping to scale up its initiative in the coming years.
Revive our Oceans: Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
What do you get when you combine 60,000 years of indigenous knowledge with digital technologies to protect the land and sea? A worthy recipient of this year’s Earthshot Prize. This program is run by indigenous women sharing their wisdom with the next generation of women rangers, as they develop new conservation approaches by telling stories and collating new data. The insights gained from this collaboration are used to continue to protect one of the most important ecosystems on the planet – the Great Barrier Reef.
Build a Waste-free World: Notpla, United Kingdom.
Also on the list was a start-up closer to home for William. Notpla, a London-based start-up, aims to wean the planet off its unhealthy addiction to plastic by wrapping produce in seaweed – a natural and biodegradable material. This year alone, Notpla has made over 1 million takeaway food boxes, and aims to replace more than 100 million plastic containers in Europe in the future.
Fix our Climate: 44.01, Oman.
Rather than allowing CO2 to clog up our atmosphere and warm our planet, two childhood friends from Oman have developed a technique to turn CO2 into rock, so it can be permanently stored underground. That’s right: CO2 doesn’t have to end up as a greenhouse gas, but can be turned into peridotite – a rock commonly found in Oman and elsewhere across the globe. Their start-up is aiming to turn 1 billion tons of CO2 into rock by 2040.
It’s been a whirlwind three days for William and Kate. While the stateside trip is not an official royal tour, the pair made time for a jam-packed three-day programme so that they could also learn about Boston, put their spotlight onto initiatives in some of its most hard-pressed communities and meet with local indigenous leaders. Here’s a look back at their visit:
In pictures: Prince William and Kate visit Boston
Royal fans gush over William and Kate.
They’ve turned out in droves, from near and far, for the chance to witness a real-life royal sighting. Despite some pretty relentless weather conditions this week, crowds have stood by cordons, patiently waiting in layer upon layer for the moment the senior royals emerged. The sun was finally shining on the final day of the visit as eager royal-watchers took up their positions outside the MGM Music Hall at Fenway on Friday afternoon.
On this cold but beautiful day, college student Lily Christopher was one of the first here, having traveled to the city for the day from Syracuse, New York. “It’s so inspiring how [William and Kate] do this project and these amazing things. I think that it’s important for the environment that they’re getting this incredible awareness,” she told CNN. “It’s important that the environment is shaped and changed so people of our generation are able to enjoy the earth just like previous ones.”
As the clock ticked closer to the ceremony, the upbeat crowd – which would sporadically break out into song – continued to grow. Jen and Katie Resmini told CNN they took a vacation day to head down from New Hampshire to be here. “I’ve been following William since I was in high school and I’ve always just loved seeing what they do. Kate’s been a great addition to the family. This is like a once-in-a-lifetime thing – when are we ever going to see a future king and queen again?” Katie added.
China is planning an embassy in London on land with a royal past. Residents want King Charles to intervene.
Residents of an apartment complex that sits on a historic parcel of land opposite the Tower of London want Britain’s King Charles to buy it back, claiming that its current owner, China, will turn it into a hub for shadowy diplomatic activity.
The British monarchy sold Royal Mint Court, a 5.4-acre plot that was once home to the facility that manufactured Britain’s coinage, to a property company in 2010. Beijing bought the site in 2018, and now plans to invest several hundreds of millions of dollars transforming it into its new embassy in the UK.
The Royal Mint Court Residents’ Association, which represents around 300 people living in the buildings, say they are fearful of how China would interpret and implement such rules once its embassy is built next door. China has been accused of using its diplomatic outposts, loosely affiliated community associations, in effect, as overseas police stations to monitor Chinese citizens abroad and coerce them to return home. British lawmakers have expressed concerns over reports of three such premises in the UK.
“I fear a diplomatic incident will occur because the powers available to the Chinese government are far reaching and excessive,” wrote David Lake, chairman of the residents’ group, in a letter to King Charles, seen by CNN.
The residents want China and the UK to agree a deal to transfer ownership of the part of the freehold that relates to their buildings. “We feel it is wrong for the Chinese government, as a global superpower, to have the same rights over us as Queen Elizabeth had when she agreed our leases,” wrote Lake in his letter to the monarch.
Read the full story here.
Sussexes faced ‘disgusting and very real’ threats, ex-counterterror chief reveals.
Meghan and Prince Harry faced “disgusting and very real” threats from right-wing extremists, a former counterterrorism police chief has said. In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News on Tuesday, Neil Basu said the threats against Meghan were serious and credible enough that authorities had assigned teams to investigate them. “If you’d seen the stuff that was written, and you were receiving it … you would feel under threat all of the time,” said Basu, who was in charge of royal protection during his time at the Metropolitan Police. “People have been prosecuted for those threats,” said the former Met assistant commissioner. Read more on this story.
Tennis star Emma Raducanu serves a stylish look for meeting with the King.
The 20-year-old British tennis star looked elated as she was honored by the King at a special ceremony held Tuesday. Raducanu was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire following her historic exploits on the court, rising from relative obscurity to win the US Open in 2021 without dropping a set in the entire tournament. Her record-breaking run saw her become the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam – all before she had even graduated high school. Following the ceremony, she called it a “great honor” in a post on Twitter. The young star sported a chic all-black dress from Dior, for whom she has served as an ambassador since last year.
There has been much discussion this week about what happened at the reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen Consort. It was supposed to be a powerful moment for Camilla – her first major event in her new role. The event was part of the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence – an annual international campaign which runs until Human Rights day on December 10. Read her full speech here.