Hot on the heels of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Invictus Games in Germany, it was the Prince of and Princess of Wales’ turn to shine.
While Kate stepped out for important engagements in the UK, William jetted across ‘the pond’ for the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York, armed with his ambitious goal to save the planet via the ten-year project.
But there was heartache behind William’s heroism, arriving on Prince Harry’s adopted US ‘home turf’ amid no sign of a reconciliation between the two brothers.
Royal expert Duncan Larcombe tells OK! that Harry will have been very much in William’s thoughts “during quieter moments” on his Big Apple trip.
“There are always going to be certain things that will remind William of his younger brother and that will be upsetting for him – I don’t doubt that for a second. I’d love to know how much of the Invictus Games William saw and whether or not he even dared watch the Netflix documentary about it. Maybe it was just too painful for him.
“It’s such a shame. Things could have been so different if the boys were on speaking terms. They could have lent some clout to each other’s projects. These opportunities are lost.”
Despite the hurt behind the scenes, Duncan says William and Kate are determined to put all the negativity firmly in the past. “I think William’s way of dealing with it is to focus on the job in hand, and that’s how he’s coped. It’s the same with Kate. They’re rolling their sleeves up and getting on with it and William’s trip to New York is no exception to that.”
The rift between the brothers first came to light when Harry confirmed that they were already on “different paths” back in 2019. Kate’s reported attempts to heal the broken bond have failed, much to her disappointment. Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond tells us, “When you come from a happy, united family – as Catherine does – it’s incredibly hard to understand how people can become estranged.
“I think she believed the rift could be fixed and, after Prince Philip’s funeral, we saw her talking with Harry and obviously encouraging William to do the same. But we now know that it didn’t work. In fact, William and Harry had a blazing row right after the funeral. There comes a point when you just have to accept that happy families are not a game that everyone can play.
“Catherine has been hurt and insulted by things that Harry and Meghan have said, but she and William are a very strong team, and I suspect that, together, they’ve come to the conclusion that the rift with Harry cannot be fixed in the foreseeable future. They’ve closed their minds to that possibility and decided to get on with their lives.”
Jennie points out that “like his father, William can be quite hot headed, but Catherine is adept at calming him down” but says “before he set off for New York, I think she would have simply given him a farewell kiss and wished him good luck because William is hugely invested in this project and is confident about what he’s doing.”
Mutual support is one of the keys to their strong relationship. “There are so few people that members of the royal family can turn to for advice, comfort or just to let off steam with,” Jennie says.
“I’m sure that William and Catherine are a great support to one another and that Catherine is the most incredible source of encouragement for William. The marriage is founded on an enduring friendship and I’m sure William has called on the strength of that friendship to help him come to terms with the loss of his wingman, his brother.”
Interestingly, Jennie believes that the couple’s split – or ‘divorce’ as she refers to it – in 2007 has helped them cope with the ructions caused by Harry. “I think one of the best things they did was essentially to have a ‘divorce’ before they got married.
The short time they spent apart made them see what life would be like without one another. I think it laid the foundation for what appears to be an extremely happy and secure marriage. Being dropped must have hit Catherine’s self confidence at the time but she has since grown as a woman, as a wife, a mother and as a future queen who would have been watching her husband perform on the world’s stage last week with enormous pride.”
William’s excitement about visiting America – his second trip in less than a year – was evident from a comment posted on the couple’s social media: “It’s so good to be back in the United States. No one does optimism and ingenuity like the American people…” And it came just days after he was crowned the most popular public figure in the US, beating the likes of Ukraine’s President Zelensky, President Biden and his own father, King Charles.
Sure enough he was met by huge crowds wherever he went. His scheduled engagements included checking out an enormous pile of oyster shells at the Billion Oyster Project on Grosvenor Island, which aims to restore oyster reefs to New York Harbour, meeting the UN Secretary General António Guterres and hanging out with FDNY firefighters near Ground Zero. And yet he still managed to squeeze in a jog through Central Park, joining “the hordes of New Yorkers doing their morning routine” seemingly unnoticed.
Appearing onstage at the Summit to reveal this year’s fifteen Earthshot Prize finalists later that day, he told previous winner Vaitea Cowantold: “It was wonderful waking up in New York on a sunny morning, rather than the rain we had yesterday. It was beautiful getting some fresh air this morning.”
William, who launched Earthshot in 2020, is due to travel to Singapore in November where he’ll announce the five winners for the third annual awards. But having told wellwishers that he’s keen to return to New York with Kate and the children in the near future, he added, “I think 2014 was the last time I was here in New York, I’ve been trying to come back but with Covid and my grandmother passing away last year has meant I’ve not been able to come.”
One very eager fan who was waiting in the crowds to meet the prince gifted him three ‘I [heart] New York’ t-shirts for the children and two mini New York license plates that read “William” and “Catherine”.
Commenting on the warm reception he received, Jennie notes, “Americans love our royal family, and William is becoming the shining star of the monarchy, particularly with Catherine at his side.
"He has his mother’s easy charm, as well as her good looks and he’s both confident and fully immersed in the destiny he once viewed with some dread. He looks as if he is enjoying his role, and as the Earthshot Prize shows, he’s determined to use his platform to engineer real change.”
Leading royal author Katie Nicholl agrees and tells OK! “It must have been a very happy coincidence” that his visit coincided with him being voted the most popular influential global figure in America.
“I think that must have been a real boost for William as he touched down in New York, not least because he’s been on the receiving end of so much public criticism from Harry. He’s definitely felt the harsh repercussions of Harry airing his dirty laundry in public.”
Of course three of William’s greatest cheerleaders were back home in the UK – Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte.
“I’m sure William would have done his utmost to FaceTime Kate and the children to keep them in touch with what was going on and, in particular, to show the children that they remain his priority, wherever his work takes him,” Jennie explains.
And praising the couple’s approach to tag-teaming amidst their busy schedules, she adds, “They certainly try to arrange their work schedules so that one of them can do the school run. William likes cooking but isn’t very good. I’m sure he can rustle up supper for the children when necessary though.
He’s a modern dad, quite different to his own father and while they have a nanny and help in the house, they give the impression that they like to do things for themselves like any normal family. It’s a great example for the children, who are being brought up in a safe bubble of love, laughter and something approaching normality.”
Kate’s work last week saw her visiting the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton in Somerset – one of the busiest military airfields in the UK. As Commodore-in-Chief of the Fleet Air Arm, she tried her hand at flying a Wildcat Mk2 in a simulator and was applauded by staff for being “really engaged, really excited and asking loads of questions”. Some royal fans were more impressed by her skill at disembarking from a helicopter gracefully in high heels!
She also paid a visit to Streets of Growth, a not-for-profit youth intervention charity in East London where there were claims she broke royal protocol by posing for a selfie with one of the staff. ‘I love the fact you’re going out into communities,” she told frontline workers.
“Kids are so isolated, they’re at home with these huge struggles.” While there, she also met mothers and daughters who’ve been helped by the service and who showed her some of the shoes and jewellery they’d made in creative workshops.
In recent months she and William have increasingly been striking out on solo engagements to promote their own passion projects. It suggests that their relationship is so stable, they’re just as influential apart.
Katie Nicholl points out, “It became a problem that Diana would eclipse Charles when with public engagements. You don’t see any of that with William and Kate. Did the photo opportunity with Kate in fits of giggles wearing a life jacket overshadow the good work William was doing? No, the Earthshot Summit has had just as much press attention.
"It’s a testament to them as a team that they can be in different countries, doing different things and yet both generating very positive press. Neither Kate nor William see each other as a threat, they see one another as their greatest supporter.”
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