NEW YORK ― Prince William spoke about his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday, in his first statement since the sovereign’s funeral earlier this week.
In a prerecorded speech, the Prince of Wales addressed audience members at the 2022 Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York City, saying that environmentalism “was a cause close to my grandmother’s heart.”
“Although it is the saddest of circumstances that means I cannot join you in person today, I am pleased to be able to join you in video form,” he said.
“During this time of grief, I take great comfort in your continued enthusiasm, optimism and commitment to The Earthshot Prize and what we are trying to achieve,” said William, who launched the environmental awards in 2020.
“Protecting the environment was a cause close to my grandmother’s heart, and I know she would have been delighted to hear about this event,” the royal added, noting that he and Kate Middleton “are so excited to be coming to Boston in December, and we look forward to seeing you all very soon” for the awards ceremony.
William was due to attend Wednesday’s event in person, before the death of Elizabeth on Sept. 8
The royal family is still observing a period of mourning, which extends seven days past the queen’s funeral. Despite the royal mourning period, it was “very symbolic” that the prince still appeared virtually at the event, according to Hannah Jones, the CEO of The Earthshot Prize.
“Obviously this has been a very, very hard time for him and his family, but I think you should take it as very symbolic that the first thing he does post coming out of mourning for the nation is to engage here,” Jones told HuffPost at The Plaza Hotel, where the summit took place.
“This is in the legacy of the queen — Her Majesty, his grandmother. It’s the legacy of his grandfather,” Jones said, referencing the late Prince Philip.
“It is what his father [King Charles III] has worked on, what he now is working on. They think long-term. Prince William thinks about generations ahead,” she added, describing the Prince of Wales as “heavily engaged and determined and motivated” and a “huge source of energy” to those at Earthshot.
Jones’ comments echoed those of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor’s Bloomberg Philanthropies partnered with Earthshot for the summit, which aimed to “drive impact around systems-changing climate solutions.”
Bloomberg said he’d recently spoken with the royal and knew “how much he wanted to be here today.”
“But there is no better way to honor the extraordinary life of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth than by gathering here in support of work that he is leading on an issue that meant so much to her,” he said to a round of applause, calling the global initiative “a testament to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth.”
“I know Prince William and King Charles are both determined to extend that legacy,” he added.
The Earthshot Prize takes its name and inspiration from former President John F. Kennedy’s famous drive to land a man on the moon in the 1960s.
The prince’s environmental awards initiative is “designed to incentivise change and help to repair our planet over the next ten years.” Five winners are each awarded 1 million pounds ($1.1 million) annually for their innovative solutions and ideas.
The 2022 awards are set to take place Dec. 2 in Boston, in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Mayor Michelle Wu and the city itself.
Actor Matt Damon, who spoke at the New York summit and is from Boston, touted his hometown’s sustainability efforts and called it “the greatest city in America.”
“Sorry Mr. Mayor,” Damon said with a smile as he turned to Bloomberg, adding: “The [Boston Red] Sox are doing terrible. I’ve got to say something.”
The December event will be a “sustainably produced awards ceremony featuring some of the biggest names in music, activism and entertainment,” said Jones, the Earthshot Prize CEO, in her opening remarks at the summit.
The organization is cognizant of its footprint and will try to mitigate it for the awards show, she said.
“We won’t be perfect. Nobody’s perfect. This is the journey of sustainability: It’s about a journey of progress,” she added. “But our objective is to always make sure that we’re embedding sustainable thinking into everything we do.”