British royalty and Boston have had a roller-coaster relationship over the last 250 years. A revolution will do that, but so will the good will forged in 1976 when the late Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, visited the city to commemorate the country’s 200th birthday.
Tens of thousands of Bostonians turned out to greet the queen then, and big crowds are expected again when William and Catherine, the prince and princess of Wales, arrive Wednesday for a round of visits before attending the Friday presentation of the Earthshot Prize, a prestigious environmental award.
“I absolutely think people love William and Kate and will be thrilled they are here,” said Julie Hall, president of the Charlestown Historical Society. “As a matter of fact, my mom was visiting from Philadelphia this weekend, and we binged ‘The Crown’! "
Hall lives on the former Bunker Hill battlefield, where British troops defeated the colonists at great cost in 1775. But long-ago bygones are bygones, and Hall plans to attend a public welcome for the couple Wednesday afternoon at City Hall Plaza.
“I’m probably the biggest royalist in town,” said Hall, who hosted a “royal wedding party” when William and Kate were married in 2011.
King Charles III, then the prince of Wales, visited Cambridge in 1986 to help celebrate Harvard University’s 350th anniversary. But Queen Elizabeth II, who died Sept. 8, remains the only reigning British monarch to visit the city.
Michelle Carr, a communications professor at Northeastern University, also is a self-described royalist looking forward to the visit.
“I think a lot of times people think of them as celebrities, but they do a lot of philanthropy,” Carr said. “They work with a lot of really great nonprofit organizations and social and political issues that I think are important.”
Carr, a lifelong Bostonian, said she had seen royals on the covers of tabloids and magazines throughout her childhood. But as an adult who considers London a second home, Carr said she appreciates the royal family as more than eye-catching celebrities.
“They’re actually people going out and doing good work and really trying to connect cultures and make the world a better place,” she said.
Inspired by former president John F. Kennedy’s challenge in 1962 to land a man on the moon by the end of that decade, Prince William established the Earthshot Prize “to uncover and scale the innovative solutions that will repair our planet within the next 10 years.” according to its website.
The prize, which awards $1.1 million to winners from around the globe in each of five categories, seeks to promote “the best and most ingenious solutions to repair and regenerate our planet, while simultaneously nurturing eco-innovators and their impact,” project organizers said.
The Earthshot Prize, which partnered with the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation to bring the ceremony to Boston, will be presented at the MGM Music Hall at Fenway.
The royals might have to share the city’s spotlight. President Biden is scheduled to appear at a Boston political fund-raiser Friday, although it was not clear Monday whether he plans to attend the Earthshot ceremony.
Peter Frost, a West London native and Charlestown resident, said he is particularly fond of William and Kate.
“This pairing is unbelievable,” said Frost, 76. “They behave like royals. They’re very grounded and very streetwise in everything they do. … They’re very representative of the royal family.”
The family has prioritized climate change for decades, Frost said, and “King Charles was the champion 50 years ago, never mind now. I think William and Kate, who are probably more popular, will be champions, too.”
Frost said he is excited to “bike on over” with his girlfriend to the public welcome at City Hall Plaza.
Terry Nixon, a native of Ireland who tends bar at Mr. Dooley’s in the Financial District, also praised the couple’s social activism.
“It’s wonderful to see William and Kate visit Boston in order to promote such an important global concern,” Nixon said. “The royal family are very effective in drawing the attention of the world to many important causes. Give credit where credit is due.”
At Cornwall’s, a tavern with a British flair in Kenmore Square, bartender Ben Melnitsky said he expects the phone to begin ringing soon with questions about the royal visit.
“After the queen died, we were getting calls around the clock to see if we were going to have coverage of the funeral,” Melnitsky recalled.
Cornwall’s did show delayed coverage of the funeral, which Melnitsky said was viewed by a British club from MIT.
Kim Luzzi, a Brookline resident and psychotherapist, said she began reading about the royal family after a controversial 2021 television interview by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who have stepped away from royal responsibilities.
In that interview with Oprah Winfrey, the couple said an unidentified member of the royal family had made a comment about the skin color of their then-unborn son. Markle’s mother is Black and her father is white.
After reading about Queen Elizabeth II and the prince and princess of Wales, Luzzi said, she came to admire their “life of service,” and also their efforts to address issues ranging from mental health and bullying to climate change.
“It must be nice having all that money and palaces, but it also seems like they work very hard,” said Luzzi, 55. “I’m super-impressed by them.”
In addition to the Earthshot awards, the royal itinerary includes visits to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Greentown Labs in Somerville, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, and Roca, a nonprofit in Chelsea that addresses poverty, racism, and young people at risk.