The media called Prince William and Princess Kate’s recent visit to Boston “their Super Bowl moment.” It was their first visit to the US in 14 years, as well as their first overseas trip after Queen Elizabeth’s death.
Well, their visit was my Super Bowl moment. No, staking them out at their hotel and awards ceremony did not require years of training and strategy and athletic prowess. But it did require commitment, laser focus, and tenacity.
I have loved the royals—and everything about England—ever since I studied and worked in the country for nine months in the late ’90s. My mom and I both became enamored and have visited the country six or seven times over the years.
Not only do I love the royals, but I am also passionate about sustainability. So, I feel very grateful to Prince William and his foundation for championing climate change mitigation and giving money to people who are working on creative solutions to environmental problems. The Earthshot Prize was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot speech about sending astronauts to the moon. Therefore, it was really fitting for the second annual awards ceremony to take place in Boston.
Will and Kate, as I affectionately call them, arrived on Wednesday, November 30, and their first engagement in the city was a public event at City Hall Plaza. A city official noted that this welcome event would be the best chance to see them on an “intimate” level. A number of local dignitaries were to speak, including Massachusetts Governor-Elect Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
The forecast called for rain; a meteorologist on the news spoke of “downpours.” But rain does not deter the English or anyone who loves the English. I put on my light rain jacket and brought a small umbrella with me. I had to work that day, so I arrived about an hour before the event was supposed to start. Upon arrival, I was greeted by crowds on both side of the stage, at least three or four people deep. For someone who is 5’1”, that’s a no-go. I opted to stand directly across from the stage. Although it was not terribly close to the stage, the vantage point seemed good. There were two media tents on both sides of the stage, one of which was directly in front of me to the left.
The event started with various speakers from the City of Boston and a moving performance from the Boston Children’s Chorus. But trouble was brewing because a few media photographers were blocking my area’s view of the stage. They were standing on a box and holding large hotel umbrellas. I was annoyed but also understood that they were doing their jobs and had to keep their equipment somewhat dry. My neighbors, however, were not as forgiving. Folks with thick Boston accents yelled fervently, “Down in front!” “Put your umbrella down!” “You scared of some rain??” “Welcome to Boston,” I thought.
There was a delay before their Royal Highnesses walked onto the stage and the crowd was restless. The air was peppered with more admonishment to put down umbrellas. But the mood abruptly shifted when Will and Kate walked out with Maura Healey and Michelle Wu. Cheers rang out and everyone whipped out their phones, trying to capture the moment.
Maura and Michelle gave short but genuine speeches about the state’s and city’s commitment to environmental issues and the importance of the royals’ visit. When Will finally took the podium, he started off by thanking the crowd for being hearty Bostonians and braving the weather. He gave a brief, heartfelt speech as well. After his speech, a large wooden stand with a green button on top was rolled out. Maura, Michelle, Will, and Kate pushed it on cue and City Hall became bathed in green light in honor of the Earthshot Prize. Afterward, they all left the stage and the emcee bid us farewell. I turned around to head to the subway station and was surprised to see that the crowd had already silently and swiftly dispersed. Soaked and weary, I sat in disbelief and elation on the subway ride home as I reflected on what had just occurred.
The next day, Will and Kate were going to visit businesses and nonprofits in Somerville and Chelsea. I had taken the day off months ago in order to attend a virtual conference. That morning, I pondered the idea of standing outside of their hotel, the Four Seasons, in the evening to try to catch a glimpse of them coming or going. They didn’t have any publicized plans that evening, so it would really be a crap shoot if I went to stake them out.
During the virtual conference, I watched a session that featured scientific research that has been done on regret, and the speaker said that most people regret inactions. He didn’t have to tell me twice. When the conference ended at 3:00, I grabbed a scarf and hat and went into the city to stand watch. As I approached the side street where the hotel’s garage is, I was surprised to see no one else waiting. I proceeded to stroll casually up and down the street, trying to evade the notice of any staff who might be patrolling. About 30 minutes later, two women appeared and asked if I was waiting to see William and Kate. I replied with an emphatic “yes” and invited them to join me. They were staying at a nearby hotel and happened to hear that the royals were in town.
Another 30 minutes or so went by and another two people started loitering. Then another woman walked up with her seemingly unenthused husband, stating that her sister was in the Fenway area and told her that Will and Kate had just finished a dress rehearsal for the awards ceremony at the venue behind Fenway Park. A man from Reuters with a cell phone on a tripod started interviewing the gathered fans about their thoughts on the royal visit. He must have sensed the anxiety blanketing the air, so he assured us, “You’ll know when they’re arriving.” He said there would be helicopters hovering in the sky and a slew of cops riding motorcycles, followed by a long motorcade.
We were becoming a small crowd, and passers-by started asking what we were waiting for. When we told them, many of them exclaimed, “OH!” and joined the band. We passed the time by talking about Will and Kate, The Crown, the cold weather, current events. One woman said to keep an eye out for a hunter green Range Rover, as that was Kate’s vehicle.
When we noticed a motorcycle cop cordone off a street about a block away, the energy of the crowd heightened. Then came the hovering helicopter. We waited for what seemed to be an eternity, but it was probably 15 minutes until two black tank-like trucks (what I later learned were “bomb trucks”) turned down the street flanked with royals fans. Then a group of motorcycle cops came roaring by. Then came the large black cars with flashing red and blue lights. Then Kate’s Range Rover. Then a big black car with a man in the back seat looking out a rolled-down window, watching the street for possible threats. The motorcade ended with a few more cars and a lot more motorcycle cops. Some people broke off from the crowd and walked down toward the garage that some of the cars had pulled into, and I followed them. We stood together for a few minutes, lamenting that they didn’t roll down the car windows to wave. But we all still basked in their presence and were slow to leave the area. Just watching their cars drive by us was enough delightful proximity. And tomorrow was another day.
To be continued…