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Prince and Princess of Wales draw thousands to City Hall

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Thousands of onlookers braved the wind and rain to greet the Prince and Princess of Wales outside Boston City Hall Wednesday afternoon. Some pressed up against the metal guardrails to get as close as they could to the main stage. Others mounted steps and platforms to peer over the sea of rain jackets, galoshes and umbrellas.

Everyone wanted to get a good view of the royal couple, who are in Boston to present the 2nd annual Earthshot Prize, which recognizes innovative projects tackling climate change.

The Prince and Princess kicked off their three-day visit to the area at a welcome event hosted by Mayor Michelle Wu.

Among those eager to see the royal family was Alex Chinks, who brought her kids with her.

"It's really nice to show the kids people in their position doing good work," she said, referring to the couple's efforts around environmental issues.

Others, like Rachelle Doane, a first-year law student, are fascinated with how the royal family have survived as a cultural institution, especially in light of less flattering depictions of some of its members in shows like Netflix's "The Crown."

"You're seeing all their imperfections; it's still fascinating because we didn't grow up with a monarchy here in the U.S.," she said.

Susannah Copland, 46, who walked around with a British flag, did grow up with the royal family. She was born in England but has been in the U.S. for over two decades and now lives in Rowley.

She, too, acknowledges that discussion around the royal family is fraught. But its members still have her respect.

"It's a tricky one because it's like, 'Do we need modern day royalty'?" she said. "I think what they do for the country, though, and around the world, is pretty amazing, and they really do represent peace."

Susannah Copland, right, with her 11-year-old daughter Annabel Copland at City Hall Plaza in Boston for an event welcoming the Prince and Princess of Wales on Nov. 30. (Vanessa Ochavillo/WBUR)
Susannah Copland, right, with her 11-year-old daughter Annabel Copland at City Hall Plaza for an event welcoming the Prince and Princess of Wales on Nov. 30.  (Vanessa Ochavillo/WBUR)

Indeed, their Boston itinerary is filled with humanitarian causes. On Thursday, the couple is scheduled to visit Roca, a Chelsea nonprofit addressing urban violence. And on Friday, they will meet at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child in Cambridge.

But the main focus of their tour is climate change. William and Kate conclude their tour at their marquee event Friday, where they will award $1.2 million — each — to five teams and individuals as part of the Earthshot Prize. The prize was inspired by President John F. Kennedy's iconic "moonshot" speech.

In his short speech Wednesday, Prince William said Kennedy's roots in the region (he was born in Brookline) made Boston a natural place to hold the ceremony. And he cited another reason: "Your universities, your research centers and vibrant startup scene make you a global leader in science innovation and boundless ambitious."

Boston City Hall awash in green light in honor of the 2nd annual Earthshot Prize. (Vanessa Ochavillo/WBUR)
Boston City Hall awash in green light in honor of the 2nd annual Earthshot Prize. (Vanessa Ochavillo/WBUR)

His speech, which clocked in at a little more than two minutes, was exactly what Boston University junior Navya Kotturu expected.

"It was pretty much what I thought they'd say but it was cool to hear it straight from them, and it's good because we can hold them accountable to what they say," she said.

The event concluded shortly after the prince's speech, with green lights washing over City Hall in honor of the Earthshot Prize.

Related:

Vanessa Ochavillo Twitter Associate Producer
Vanessa Ochavillo is an associate producer for WBUR focused on digital news.

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