David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty
I've been following Kate Middleton, Prince William and the rest of the royal family professionally for nearly five years...and even longer than that for my personal interest. (Teen Prince William was definitely a crush of mine, and my college roommates and I tried to stay up all night to watch him marry Kate in 2011 from our dorm room in New Jersey...we fell asleep but caught the replay.) So when it was announced that the Prince and Princess of Wales were coming to the United States, I joined PEOPLE's team in packing my bags and shipping up to Boston — Alexa, play Dropkick Murphys.
The thing about being a royal reporter in the U.S. is that you're usually separated by an ocean and a five-hour time difference (at least). But for three days in Boston, there were occasions when I was standing just feet away from Prince William and Princess Kate.
And while any royal encounter would be exciting, their trip to Boston was big: not only was this their first trip to the U.S. since 2014 (I still have a blurry phone photo of the Empire State Building lit red, white and blue in their honor!), but this was their first international trip as the Prince and Princess of Wales. It also marked the second year of Prince William's Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony — and the first time the awards were held outside the U.K. The stakes were high, and Boston was buzzing from the moment I pulled in — even the valet at the hotel excitedly told me, "The Prince and Princess are in town!"
On Wednesday, I literally dropped my bags at my hotel following my five-hour drive to head to the couple's first outing of the trip: an appearance outside Boston City Hall. It was a couple of hours before Kate and Prince William were scheduled to arrive at the landmark but already Bostonians were lined up to catch a glimpse — all bundled up in jackets and many holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the rain.
I started chatting with Molly Twomey, a Boston native who actually had seen Kate and Prince William before — from a distance, at least, when she attended a 90th birthday celebration at Windsor Castle for Queen Elizabeth while studying abroad in London.
"I've always loved the royals. My mom has loved the royals since I was a little girl, so I remember waking up in the morning for Princess Kate and Prince William's wedding and watching it," she told me. "Then also I studied abroad in London, so I've always had a fascination with the royal family, so for them to come to my hometown, I couldn't miss it."
Despite hours of standing in the cold rain, the Prince and Princess of Wales were greeted with a roar from the crowd. People around me were giggling with delight as Prince William made a speech, well aware that they were listening to a future king as he called them "hardy Bostonians."
Next, we were off to the Boston Celtics game. We spotted Prince William and Princess Kate seated courtside from our seats, and they clearly enjoyed the game from the tip-off and chatted with the people they were seated with throughout. I told my colleagues Simon Perry and Janine Henni that I wouldn't be surprised if the couple left at halftime given that it was already quite late over in the U.K. — but nope! Kate and William stayed the entire game, including a Jumbotron moment where they smiled and waved.
On Thursday, Janine and I bundled up to head to Roca, a non-profit in neighboring Chelsea focused on high-risk young people between the ages of 16 and 24 at the center of urban violence. Although the rain clouds of Wednesday had parted and the sun was shining, gloves and hats were a must in the gusty wind. But again, crowds were gathering with flags, signs, flowers and more to welcome the royals.
Afterward, I spoke with Lindsey Simser, who drove from New Hampshire to see Prince William and Princess Kate with her 3-month-old daughter, Rilly. She told me that no matter the weather, she wasn't going to miss this opportunity.
"I would come in a snowstorm. I would come in a blizzard to see this," she said. "This is amazing that they're here doing so much great work."
We learned it was pretty easy to know when Prince William and Kate were nearby — the motorcade was led by motorcycles, then a series of cars pulled up to Roca's entrance. Prince William and Kate quickly headed inside with a wave to the crowd — and an hour or so later, they emerged and headed straight over to the people gathered for an impromptu walkabout. While the first trailer for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Netflix docuseries dropped earlier that morning, the couple was cheerful as they shook hands and greeted well-wishers.
Local resident Alex Cross, 30, told Janine that she shook Prince William's hand and asked if he could greet her mom from Tennessee who was on the phone.
"Is she on there now?" William asked, to which the woman replied yes. Prince William then asked Cross what her mother's name was and spoke to her right into the phone with hesitation. "Mallory, hello! Where in Tennessee? I hope it's warmer there!" he said with a laugh.
As the couple returned to their car, I waved a little Union Jack flag. I don't know if Prince William spotted it, but I do have a photo where he does seem to be looking in my direction!
After a coffee stop at Dunkin Donuts — a must while in Massachusetts, right? — we then headed straight to Boston Harbor for the couple's next engagement, where they learned about how climate change is affecting the city's shoreline. Here's what I know about reporting on that outing — it was cold. Prince William didn't even have gloves on and kept his hands tucked in his pockets. I couldn't believe they didn't have any hats on, as I was freezing despite wearing mine.
We had some better weather on Friday, but as Kate and Prince William each carried out solo engagements, I was prepping for the Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony. I was torn between wearing a navy jumpsuit and a gold gown for the event, but I figured that I should look my best for such an event — and when I found out David Beckham would be handing out an award, that sealed the deal. I mean, he wasn't named PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive in 2015 for nothing!
I found out earlier in the trip that I'd be a pool reporter for the event, meaning that I would be on the green carpet when Kate and Prince William arrived, watching the show from the wings and then backstage when the couple met the presenters and performers. Before I knew it, I was on the green carpet with my press credentials hanging around my neck (in my opinion, only enhancing my ensemble) as stars like Chloe and Halle Bailey, Rami Malek, Shailene Woodley and Catherine O'Hara arrived. Of course, the loudest screams came from the crowds gathered across the street when the Prince and Princess of Wales stepped out of their car, Kate in her incredible statement green dress — you could spot her from a mile away! And I let out a little squeal when a fellow reporter showed me a photo pulled up on Google — the choker necklace worn by Kate was a piece straight from Princess Diana's jewelry box!
We were ushered inside, where we watched the royals take their seats for the show front and center. Throughout the show, they leaned into each other to talk. After Kate presented the award for Clean Our Air, Prince William looked up and placed a hand on her back — you could tell how supportive they were of each other.
Before Ellie Goulding took the stage for the night's final performance and before Prince William gave a speech, we were whisked away to get ready for their backstage meet-and-greet. The room was smaller than I imagined, and at one point as we were repositioned, I was inches away from Kate — I carefully squeezed by, being extra careful not to brush against her dress! We stood off to the side as the couple talked to the performers — Prince William appeared to tell Chloe x Halle that he was impressed by the lighting during their rendition of "Feeling Good," and Kate sweetly put a hand on Ellie's arm as she joined her conversation with Prince William.
It was a little bit difficult to sleep that night — I was exhausted, for sure, but the buzz of excitement was still there. I stayed up much later than I should have, scrolling through Instagram to see Kate chatting with people at Harvard University earlier in the day and catching up on Prince William's meeting with President Joe Biden.
Despite less-than-ideal weather and some "U.S.A." chants at the Celtics game, Prince William and Princess Kate clearly left Boston charmed — from the members of the crowd who only got a glimpse of their heads ducking into a car to Sasha, the Harvard University Police Department dog who posed for a photo with Kate. And, of course, they charmed me — it's one thing to admire people and the important work they do from afar, but seeing it in action was something I'll never forget.