Get A Sneak Peek of The Royal Visit
by Melissa Jacobs
Think Monaco is all about glamour and luxury? It is. But it’s also about ecological preservation. Protecting the Earth’s natural resources is the core mission of the Prince Albert II Of Monaco Foundation. Founded in 2006, the foundation has donated more than 100 million Euros to environmentally-conscious projects around the world. And, the prince has infused conservation into fashion, food, the arts, spearheading initiatives that make environmental sustainability creative, fun and chic.
Now, Prince Albert is bringing some of the world’s best scientific minds to Philadelphia to raise awareness for their work in climate change, biodiversity and conserving water resources. On Friday, Oct. 27 from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation’s 16th Planetary Health Awards will be presented at the Kimmel Center. The ceremony and the panel discussion that follows it are open to the public and tickets are free, but registration is required.
Although Prince Albert is half-Philadelphian through his mother, the late Princess Grace de Monaco, this is the first year that the award ceremony will be held in Philadelphia. “It will be great for the city and the foundation,” said John B. Kelly III, Prince Albert’s first cousin and president of the US chapter of his foundation. “Significant business people and scientists from all over the world will be here. And Albert tends to attract attention, so Philadelphia will definitely be in the spotlight.”
The awards are only one part of the royal visit. The Masonic Temple will host a gala fundraising dinner, and the guest list includes dignitaries and international VIPs who share the prince’s commitment to preserving the planet. Prince Albert will also tour FDR Park’s wetlands, the Philadelphia Zoo, and attend a tree planting ceremony in North Philadelphia to support Philly Tree Plan. Prince Albert’s foundation awarded a $130,000 grant to Philly Tree Plan, the city’s new and first strategy to grow and protect its tree canopy and combat climate change.
Prince Albert’s passion for conservation is rooted in his family history, Kelly said. His great, great grandfather on the Grimaldi side, Prince Albert I, is considered the father of modern oceanography. “He wasn’t a scientist in the strictest sense,” Kelly said, “but he was a ‘gentleman scientist’ and launched many scientific expeditions, including to the North Pole in 1906.”
Prince Albert II marked the 100th anniversary of that groundbreaking trip by making his own excursion to the North Pole. “Albert had a picture from 1906 and he went to the same place and stood in front of the same glacier,” Kelly said. “The one in the photo was significantly bigger than the one behind Albert. You could see how much the glacier had receded. It struck a chord in Albert, and that led to the formation of the Prince Albert II Foundation.”
The prince will soon commemorate a different 100th anniversary, this one on his mother’s side. In 1924, John B. Kelly, Sr., the prince’s grandfather, won his third Olympic gold medal in rowing, making him the first rower to earn three Olympic gold medals. Prince Albert will honor that accomplishment when he presents the rowing medals at the Paris Olympics in 2024, Kelly said. That will connect the Olympics to Philadelphia as well as Monaco, and shed light on the broader Kelly family story, which usually focuses on Princess Grace’s Hollywood career. Indeed, Grace Kelly won her own awards; one Academy Award and three Golden Globes.
During his royal visit to Philadelphia, Prince Albert will meet with rowers competing in The Gold Cup, a rowing competition being held on Oct. 28. The first Gold Cup was held in 1920 and won by his grandfather. Kelly said that their grandfather wanted to compete in the Royal Henley Regatta, but was disqualified. “My grandfather wasn’t allowed to compete because he was a brick layer and the Henley had rules against working men competing against gentlemen,” Kelly said.
Not only did Kelly, Sr. win the Gold Cup, but he beat the Henley Regatta winner at the 1920 Olympics in Belgium. “Our grandfather always rowed in a green cap, and legend has it that after he won gold at that Olympics, he mailed that green cap to the King of England,” said Christopher Le Vine, owner of the Inn at Grace Winery in Glen Mills, and one of Kelly, Sr.’s three grandsons. Le Vine’s mother and Prince Albert’s mother were sisters.
Their uncle, John B. Kelly, Jr., continued his father’s rowing legacy, winning the Henley Royal Regatta twice, earning gold medals at the Pan American Games, and competing in four Olympics, earning a bronze medal in 1956. Philadelphia’s Kelly Drive is named for him. “He spent much of his life rowing there,” Kelly III said of his father. “My family has been connected to the Schuylkill River for generations.”
But it wasn’t always a clean river. Kelly III and Le Vine rowed – often together – on the Schuylkill. “It was dirty water, littered with garbage,” Kelly said. “Now, the river is much better. If you give it the opportunity, nature bounces back and heals itself.”
But only if people take action and remain committed to conservation, he said. Kelly, who grew up in Wynnewood and remembers separating green, brown and clear glass when he was a young kid volunteering with the Lower Merion Recycling Program, hopes that the work done by the Prince Albert II Of Monaco Foundation inspires people around the world, particularly Americans. (Pictured: John B. Kelly III)
“Many times, we can get discouraged with the lack of progress in the environmental movement, particularly at the legislative end, but one thing that gives me great hope are the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act that essentially eliminated acid rain in half the time and at half the cost that naysayers who opposed the legislation thought it would,” Kelly said. “When we actually get something in place, American ingenuity and American business will solve this problem. I know we can do it.”
The foundation has funded successful projects, including a Drexel University initiative to separate hydrogen from hydrocarbon without releasing C02, and a deep coral reef project in the Caribbean. “Most coral reef research has been in the first 100 feet of water where they are colorful and nice,” Kelly said. “We worked with The Smithsonian Institute to document the health and wellbeing of coral reefs at about 1,000 feet.”
Explaining how the foundation decides what to projects to back, Kelly said that funding requests are vetted by a scientific committee, then forwarded to the foundation’s board. “The foundation is like a mutual fund of environmental projects,” Kelly said. “If you’re not well versed enough in environmental science to decide which projects to fund on your own, this foundation does that for you.”
Prince Albert is a hands-on participant in the foundation, Kelly said. “Albert likes to travel to labs and other sites where the work is being done,” he said. “He brings the notoriety and image of Monaco with him, and a little celebrity glam always helps.”
That will certainly be the case when Prince Albert is in Philadelphia, although Kelly and Le Vine made it clear that their famous cousin has always been very in touch with his Philly roots. “My aunt, Princess Grace, used to have scrapple shipped to Monaco,” Kelly said. “Albert and his siblings grew up eating scrapple. They are royals, for sure, but they eat scrapple like the rest of us.”
For more information about the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, visit this website.
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