Prince William's US Earthshot trip a 'Super Bowl' moment for royal family

Prince and Princess of Wales arrive in US on Wednesday in the shadow of Duke of Duchess of Sussex

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Prince William will travel to the US on Wednesday for his “Super Bowl” moment, which some royal commentators say threatens to be overshadowed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The future British king will be joined by his wife Catherine, Princess of Wales, to attend an awards ceremony for the environmental accolade the Earthshot Prize on Friday.

Earthshot awards - in pictures

A member of the royal household told reporters the trip would be a critical moment for Prince William.

"The prize has become the prince's Super Bowl moment of the year and he looks forward to continuing to use the platform each year to shine a light on some of the most impactful projects doing amazing things around the world to save our planet's future."

It will be the first time the couple have visited the US since the Sussexes made the country their permanent home in 2020.

Their last trip was in November 2014, when they were guests of then-president Barack Obama at the White House.

But this trip will not be a social visit, like the one Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, made in 1989, when she toured New York City, or the earlier visit to the Reagan White House in 1985 when she caught the public imagination by dancing with film star John Travolta.

Princess Diana dances with John Travolta in Cross Hall at the White House during an official dinner in 1985 in Washington. Getty Images

The royal couple will remain in Boston to focus on environmental issues ahead of a glamorous ceremony to announce the winners of the Earthshot Prize, which Prince William established.

Hannah Jones, Earthshot chief executive, said the prince had been an ambitious leader.

“He’s wonderfully, unreasonably ambitious, as it should be,” she told The Telegraph.

“Why can’t we do it like that? And why can’t we go 10 times faster? We do not have time, we have to go bigger, we have to make more of an impact.

“It’s an absolute joy to work for someone like that because he really is passionate.”

Boston, birthplace of John F. Kennedy, was chosen to host the second annual prize ceremony because the late president’s 1962 “Moonshot” speech — setting the challenge for Americans to reach the Moon by the end of the decade — inspired the prince and his partners to set a similar goal for finding solutions to climate change and other environmental problems by 2030.

When Harry met the Kennedys

The trip will come days before Prince Harry and his wife Meghan receive the Ripple of Hope award from Robert F Kennedy’s daughter for standing up to the alleged racism she experienced when they were working members of the royal family.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told The National: “The royal family’s trips abroad are the ultimate in soft power.

The Earthshot Prize is especially significant as it is searching for new ideas to help save the planet.

“It is unfortunate, to put it mildly, that its serious purpose may be overshadowed by the Sussexes accepting the Ripple of Hope Award for challenging the royal family, which, since they get their contracts by being members of it, is perverse.

“Ironically, both the Earthshot Prize and the Ripple of Hope award have links with the Kennedys, who are American royalty.”

A source close to Prince William said Earthshot was the couple’s "number one focus" from which they will not be distracted.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are set to receive the Ripple of Hope from Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy, at a ceremony in New York on December 6.

Ms Kennedy previously described the Sussexes’ interview with Oprah Winfrey — in which Ms Markle spoke out about the alleged racism she experienced from the royal family — as "a heroic stand".

Among other revelations, she said there was concern within the royal family about her baby’s skin tone.

There were several “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he was born”, said the Duchess, who on Tuesday released the latest and final episode of her podcast Archetypes, which at Prince Harry’s suggestion features male guests for the first time.

Prince William and Prince Harry through the years - in pictures

Some royal observers say the Ripple of Hope has placed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a difficult position, as publicly receiving such an award could widen the rift between the brothers.

The relationship could also further deteriorate as a result of potential revelations in a coming Netflix documentary and Prince Harry’s eagerly anticipated memoir Spare, due to be released in January.

“You could say that the royal family, particularly as far as America is concerned, have had a bit of a bumpy ride of late,’’ said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine.

“They’ve come in for huge amounts of criticism on the back of The Crown and also the Oprah Winfrey interview, which has not particularly reflected well on the House of Windsor, so I think it’s a good opportunity whilst they’re in the US … to redress the balance, if at all possible."

The voice of broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, a supporter of the Earthshot Prize since its inception, will open the show, with Oscar-winning actress and Earthshot judging panel member Cate Blanchett narrating a look back at last year's winners.

Actor Rami Malek, who played singer Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, will present an award, as will actress Catherine O'Hara, who starred in the film Home Alone, and environmental activist and actress Shailene Woodley.

Rami Malek (R), pictured at Wimbledon in July with Lucy Boynton, is to present one of this year’s Earthshot awards. PA

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

They include finalists from the UK for the first time, with two British-based entries selected.

Notpla Hard Material — a start-up run by Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez in London — makes packaging from seaweed and plants as an alternative to single-use plastic, and has already produced more than one million biodegradable takeaway food boxes for Just Eat.

The other UK finalist. Low Carbon Materials, based in Durham, north-east England, uses unrecyclable plastic waste to make traditional concrete blocks carbon-zero.

Updated: November 29, 2022, 3:10 PM