William and Kate fly to US to promote prince’s environmental prize

<span>Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP</span>
Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

The Prince and Princess of Wales will fly to the US on Wednesday hoping to shine a light on the climate crisis against a media backdrop obsessed with sibling rivalry and turf war with the Sussexes.

In their first US trip in eight years, Prince William and Princess Catherine are visiting Boston to promote the prince’s environmental Earthshot prize.

Days later the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will also head to the east coast for a prestigious New York awards ceremony where they are being feted for speaking out on the alleged racism they experienced as part of the royal family.

No plans for the brothers to meet during the Waleses’ three-day trip have been made public.

William’s star-studded Earthshot ceremony and Harry and Meghan’s human rights Ripple of Hope awards will also draw focus to America’s own “royal” family – the Kennedys.

Boston was chosen for the second Earthshot annual prize ceremony, to be held on Friday, as the birthplace of President John F Kennedy, whose 1962 “moonshot” speech inspired William to set a similar challenge to find solutions to the world’s environmental problems by 2030. The Waleses will meet the Boston mayor, Michelle Wu, and visit the John F Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum with the late president’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy.

On the following Tuesday, 6 December, Harry and Meghan will attend the Robert F Kennedy Ripple of Hope awards to be honoured for their commitment to social change and human rights work. In widely reported comments Kerry Kennedy, one of Robert Kennedy’s children and president of the foundation, told the Spanish news site El Confidencial: “They went to the oldest institution in UK history and told them what they were doing wrong, that they couldn’t have structural racism within the institution, that they could not maintain a misunderstanding about mental health.”

William has previously denied any claims of racism within the royal family after the Sussexes’ controversial Oprah Winfrey interview.

With Harry’s candid memoir Spare due to be published in January, and the Sussexes’ Netflix documentary eagerly anticipated, as well as the House of Windsor woes depicted in the latest season of The Crown miniseries, a lot of noise surrounds William and Catherine’s visit.

A source has insisted the couple’s focus is on the Earthshot prize and they “won’t be distracted by other things”. They will visit local environmental, education and community projects in Boston before attending Friday’s Earthshot ceremony with its appearances by stars including the Grammy award-winning singer Billie Eilish and Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek.

However, relentless media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic has already pitched this as a popularity contest between the two couples, and one over which memories of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, will undoubtedly loom.

Having inherited first the engagement ring and now the title of the late Princess of Wales, Catherine can expect to be compared at every turn, says Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine. Meghan, meanwhile, has long been portrayed by Harry as suffering the same ordeal at the hands of the media as his mother.

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The Boston visit, albeit just three days long, was an opportunity for the royal family to redress the balance, given recent negative publicity, Little said. The Winfrey interview “did no good at all to the reputation of the British royal family, rightly or wrongly, depending on your stance”, he said. The narrative of The Crown miniseries also “has not been particularly helpful to the House of Windsor”.

He added: “Diana meant a huge amount to so many Americans, so comparisons are inevitable in everything that Catherine says or does. Less so in the Duchess of Sussex, but I suppose people will always be looking for a nod to Diana in whatever form it takes – or doesn’t take.”

The Waleses, who last visited the US in 2014 as guests of then president Barack Obama, will meet local organisations responding to rising sea levels in Boston and visit Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts, an incubator hub where local entrepreneurs are working on projects to combat the climate emergency. They will also visit Harvard University’s Centre on the Developing Child.

Earthshot offers £1m ($1.2m) in prize money to the winners of five categories: nature protection, clean air, ocean revival, waste elimination and climate change. The winners and all 15 finalists will also receive help to expand their projects to meet global demand.

The ceremony will be broadcast Sunday on the BBC in the UK, PBS in the US and Multichoice across Africa.