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Opinion Post Elizabeth: William and Kate’s Boston trip sparks royal turf chatter

The Prince and Princess of Wales, better known as Prince William and Kate Middleton, on a visit to Berlin in July 2017. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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Eight years after their last U.S. trip, the Prince and Princess of Wales — better known as Prince William and Kate Middleton — visit Boston for three days this week. Cue buzz, with chatter about the Earthshot Prize environmental contest that’s bringing the couple to the States — and speculation of a turf tussle between the Waleses and their U.S.-based relatives, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Are Will and Kate about to go glam to win American fans? We expect some sparkle — while they lean into the contrast between the couples’ roles. “The Palace team are highly cognizant of Meghan and Harry, but equally, they’re not scared of their shadows on this,” Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reports a Foreign Office source as saying.

On the agenda: William and Kate arrive Wednesday and meet with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at City Hall. Thursday’s activities include a visit to a climate start-up and a nonprofit that seeks to protect at-risk youth from violence. On Friday, Kate is scheduled to visit the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (The princess reiterated her commitment to early childhood development in an op-ed last week.) William, who launched the Earthshot contest in 2020, will visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum with Caroline Kennedy before the awards ceremony that evening. The star-studded event, which includes performances from singers Billie Eilish, Ellie Goulding and Annie Lennox, airs Dec. 4 on BBC and will air and stream Dec. 5 on PBS.

About the prize? Fifteen finalists have been named, three innovators for each of the contest’s five categories: protecting and restoring nature; clean air; reviving oceans; building a waste-free world; and fixing the climate. Winners receive 1 million British pounds each and support from the contest’s network to scale and implement their innovations.

The prize has become the prince’s “Super Bowl moment,” People magazine reports, a way to show progress and raise interest in issues William cares about.

Ships in the night. The Waleses aren’t the only royals on the East Coast this month — or the only ones hanging with some Kennedys. On Dec. 6, Harry and Meghan are to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award for “moral courage” in speaking out against racism. “They went to the oldest institution in U.K. history,” RFK’s daughter Kerry Kennedy told a Spanish news site, speaking of the House of Windsor, “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.”

Just saying: If the royals wanted to quash rumors of a rift (or “frosty truce”) between the brothers, showing up at each other’s high-profile events would be a good first step. Given their track record, we’re not holding our breath.

Maybe not all the king’s horses and men, but a good chunk of both were on display to welcome South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for the first state visit of King Charles’s reign. The military parade and carriage procession in London last Tuesday involved more than 1,000 soldiers and 200-plus horses, followed later by a white-tie banquet at Buckingham Palace. This was Britain’s first state visit in the pandemic era — the last was by Donald Trump, in 2019.

Style and substance: State visits are initiated by the U.K. government, with regal glam deployed to help accomplish diplomatic goals. South Africa turned out to be a complex choice at this moment (though plans for Ramaphosa’s two-day trip were reportedly in the works before Queen Elizabeth II died in September). Although Britain’s Conservative government has supported Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak skirted South Africa’s refusal to enforce sanctions against Russia, instead emphasizing trade and investment. South Africa is Britain’s largest trading partner in Africa, and trade deals are critical to Britain post-Brexit. The king’s brother Prince Edward accompanied Ramaphosa on two environmentally focused outings, and some health and science partnerships were announced. Charles invoked his mother’s long associations with South Africa and the Commonwealth, apparent efforts to strengthen ties with both. “We must acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past if we are to unlock the power of our common future,” he said, a reference to colonialism that is not an apology. Meanwhile, the bling on display did not include the Cullinan diamond brooch, amid calls for it to be returned to South Africa, where it was mined.

Watch: Ramaphosa’s repeated “wow” at Charles’s banquet toast — which opened with the king saying “welcome” in languages spoken in South Africa — was endearingly human.

The new king is marking some firsts, including celebrating his birthday as monarch (he turned 74 on Nov. 14, but there’s no age limit on birthday pix) and leading Remembrance Sunday services commemorating Britain’s war dead. In recent years Charles had laid a wreath in place of his mother, but this was his first time presiding in his own right. The sovereign is head of Britain’s military, and the event is one of the most significant on the royal calendar.

He’s also getting along with government. Parliament moved swiftly after Charles requested an update to the rules governing who can officially stand in for the sovereign if he is ill or abroad. Context: A Labour Party peer, Viscount Stansgate, raised the issue in the House of Lords in October, remarking that of the five people authorized to act as counselors of state, the king’s brother Prince Andrew “has left public life” and his son Prince Harry “has left the country.” Charles sent a memo this month asking that his sister, Princess Anne, and brother Edward be added to the pool of eligible stand-ins. What’s noteworthy: The House of Lords introduced a bill days later to make the change. Also: This fix removes the risk of needing to rely on Harry or Andrew without generating the headlines that would follow were they formally stripped of the counselor role.

Other royal news

OUT: Ladies-in-waiting. IN: Companions. As queen, Camilla is tweaking the title and duties of five newly appointed assistants.

Book buzz: Yes, we have seen the claims that Queen Elizabeth had bone marrow cancer. The book that recent reports cited, “Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait,” by Gyles Brandreth, a well-connected author and former politician, will be released in Britain on Dec. 8. In the meantime, here’s the excerpt that sparked headlines.

💰💰💰: Remember that cash-for-honors scandal involving the Prince’s Foundation, a charity of now-King Charles? Foundation records show that Michael Fawcett, a longtime aide to Charles, was paid nearly 60,000 pounds (about $70,000) after stepping down last year as head of the charity. His exit followed reports that he offered to help a wealthy Saudi donor obtain a knighthood and British citizenship. A police investigation continues, with prosecutors expected to decide by Christmas whether to bring charges.

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Coverage from around The Post

A man hurled eggs at Charles and Camilla and yelled “this country was built on the blood of slaves” while the couple visited York, England, on Nov. 9. The king might engage on the issue of slavery, reports London correspondent Karla Adam. After he met earlier this month with artists who had participated in a project exploring Britain’s role in slavery, one of the artists, Fiona Compton, told reporters that Charles “says he is ready to speak on it.” Also notable: This was not the first time eggs have been thrown at British royals.

Netflix's fifth season of “The Crown” showcases many of the public-facing scandals faced by the royal family in the early 90s, like Charles and Diana's split. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Charles wants to look ahead. “The Crown” drags him back to some of his most painful times, write London correspondents William Booth and Karla Adam. As the new king seeks to set the tone for his reign, the Netflix series is “reminding viewers that he was once a bad, sad husband in a bad, sad marriage,” they write. “For an American audience, ‘The Crown’ is entertainment. In Britain, there’s a sense there’s more at stake.”

Here’s Post coverage about the poll, and the Charles and Diana “second honeymoon,” referenced in the show.

If you’re wondering about the 4,000-ton floating metaphor in season five of “The Crown,” The Post offers some background on the royal yacht Britannia. Before the ship was decommissioned in 1997, it had sailed more than 1 million nautical miles and called at 600-plus ports in 135 countries. The yacht was used for state visits and receptions as well as royal honeymoons and family trips, such as summer sails to Scotland. Yes, Queen Elizabeth announced the ship’s name early in her reign — but her brief remarks weren’t self-reverential. You can watch:

If Princess Diana’s most famous finery is her wedding gown, her most infamous is the black off-the-shoulder number known as the “revenge dress.” A mimic of the figure-hugging Christina Stambolian garment appears briefly in “The Crown,” but in real life Diana had a revenge look that was not limited to one dress, writes The Post’s Ashley Fetters Maloy. The princess’s personal style had a revenge era, and it was directed at more than Charles, she writes.

(In this Vanity Fair backgrounder, costume designer Amy Roberts says “there was a palpable ‘wowza’ moment on set” when actress Elizabeth Debicki appeared in costume.)


Getty Images royal photographer Chris Jackson shot behind the scenes at last year’s Earthshot Prize award ceremony in England.

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