The Prince of Wales paid tribute to his late grandmother as he arrived in Boston on Wednesday evening, hailing her as “one of life’s optimists”.
The Prince and the Princess touched down in Massachusetts for a three-day visit organised around the second annual Earthshot Prize awards.
On arrival at Boston Logan International Airport, the Prince said that both he and his wife were “delighted to be back in the United States” on their first official visit since 2014.
“On this, our first overseas visit since the death of my grandmother, I would like to thank the people of Massachusetts and particularly of Boston for their many tributes paid to the late Queen,” he said.
“She remembered her 1976 bicentennial visit with great fondness.”
He added: “My grandmother was one of life’s optimists. And so am I. That is why last year we launched the Earthshot Prize with the ambition to create a truly global platform to inspire hope and urgent optimism as we look to save the future of our planet.”
The Prince thanked the local community for hosting the second year of the prize, adding: “Catherine and I can’t wait to meet many of you in the days ahead.”
The couple were greeted at the airport by Charlie Baker, governor of Massachusetts, his wife, Lauren Baker, and Karyn Polito, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.
After checking into their hotel, the royals were due to begin the official countdown to Friday’s Earthshot award ceremony by lighting up green 16 local landmarks.
The Prince later addressed the crowd of more than 1,000 gathered in torrential rain at Boston City Hall.
After a private meeting with city mayor Michelle Wu, the royals stepped outside for an official welcome event.
The Prince said: “Thank you to the hardy Bostonians braving the rain this evening.”
He said he and his wife were “absolutely delighted” to be in the city before describing how President John F Kennedy’s “moonshot” challenge to land on the moon had inspired the Earthshot awards.
After a countdown from the crowd, the Prince and Princess then pressed a “special wireless button” to turn the city hall and 15 other local landmarks, green.
The first speaker at the event was Rev Mariama White-Hammond, Boston’s chief of environment, energy and open space, who told the crowd, before the royals stepped onto the stage, to “consider the legacy of colonialism and racism.”
The visit comes amid a Royal race row after Lady Susan Hussey, the Prince’s godmother, made “unacceptable and deeply regrettable” comments to a black domestic abuse campaigner at a Buckingham Palace reception.
A Kensington Palace spokesman, speaking in Boston ahead of the Royals’ arrival, said he was “disappointed” to hear of the incident and that “racism has no place in our society”.
For the Prince and Princess, the timing was unfortunate, coming just as they embarked on their American charm offensive.
However, an expected meeting with US President Joe Biden is likely to be welcomed by palace officials, elevating the Prince’s position on the world stage while also underscoring the close ties between the UK and the US.
The late Queen remains the only reigning monarch to have visited Boston where she was welcomed in 1976 with a 21-gun salute and crowds of eight-deep.
In a speech delivered from the Old State House, 200 years after the Declaration of Independence was read from the same building, she said: “If Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and other patriots could have known that one day a British Monarch would stand beneath the balcony of the Old State House… well I think they would have been extremely surprised!”
“But perhaps they would also have been pleased. Pleased to know that, eventually, we came together again as free peoples and friends and defended together the very ideals for which the American Revolution was fought.”
Prince William has previously spoken fondly of the late Queen’s commitment to the environment.
In a video message recorded for an Earthshot Prize innovation summit in September, the day after the monarch’s funeral, he said: “Protecting the environment was a cause close to my grandmother’s heart. And I know she would have been delighted to hear about this event and the support you’re all giving our Earthshot finalists, the next generation of environmental pioneers.”