The Prince and Princess of Wales have arrived in Boston in a visit that has been overshadowed by a row over racism back in the UK. William’s godmother Lady Susan Hussey, a member of the Royal Household, resigned on Wednesday after repeatedly asking a black British charity boss where she was “really” from. A spokesperson for Prince William said “racism has no place in our society”.
The royal couple are in the US to hand out awards for their Earthshot Prize. They will also meet President Joe Biden, the White House has said.Ngozi Fulani, a charity founder, was repeatedly questioned by Lady Hussey about her background at an event on domestic violence at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, she said the remarks had felt “like an interrogation” and had led her to question how a situation like this could happen in a space “supposed to protect women against all kinds of violence”.
“Although it’s not physical violence, it is an abuse”, she said. Lady Hussey, 83, who was a close confidante of the late Queen, has apologised.
Shortly after the prince arrived in the US, his spokesperson sought to distance William from his godmother’s remarks. The comments were unacceptable, and it is right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect,” they said.
Events at Buckingham Palace on Monday have been embarrassing and distracting. The focus for the Prince and Princess of Wales in the United States was due to be environmental innovation, optimism about the future and meetings with a wide range of communities in Boston.
Before the royal couple had even arrived in the city, their spokesperson had issued a strongly worded statement condemning racism and supporting the decision of Prince William’s godmother, Lady Susan Hussey, to step aside. Timing mattered here. Condemnation of her remarks from both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace was swift and unequivocal.
In issuing a statement at the very start of their American visit, the Prince and Princess of Wales have made their position and feelings on the matter explicitly clear – there is no place for this kind of comment and questioning within the royal household.
And all this just a few days before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are due in New York to receive a human rights award from the Robert F Kennedy Foundation. Robert Kennedy’s daughter, Kerry, says Harry and Meghan were chosen for the honor due to their “heroic stand” against “structural racism” within the royal family.
The Earthshot Prize was launched in 2020 to search for innovative solutions to problems facing the planet. Shortly after landing, the prince thanked the US city for hosting his environmental awards.
The royal couple launched the countdown to Friday’s event by lighting up Boston’s landmarks green, before attending a basketball game.
Crowds stood in the rain to welcome William and Catherine to the city hall in Boston, hometown of former US president John F Kennedy – the Earthshot prize is based on his ‘Moonshot’ challenge to put a human on the moon. Like President Kennedy, Catherine and I firmly believe that we all have it in ourselves to achieve great things, and that human beings have the ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve,” Prince William told the crowd.
He said he wanted to thank the people of Boston for “their many tributes paid to the Queen”, on this, his first overseas visit since her death.
“My grandmother was one of life’s optimists. And so am I. That is why last year we launched the Earthshot Prize with the ambition to create a truly global platform to inspire hope and urgent optimism as we look to save the future of our planet,” he said.
“To the people of Boston, thank you. I’m so grateful to you for allowing us to host the second year of the Earthshot Prize in your great city. Catherine and I can’t wait to meet many of you in the days ahead.
Later on Wednesday evening, the royal couple attended an NBA basketball game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat at TD Garden, sitting courtside with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and his wife Emilia Fazzalari.
A planned trip for the royal couple to New York earlier this year was cancelled following the death of the Queen. The couple was last in the US in 2014 in a trip that included a reception at the White House with the then president Barack Obama and his then vice-president Joe Biden.
When asked about the arrival of the royal couple in Boston, the White House said that President Biden intends to greet them and his team are “working through the details”.
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