William's Earthshot Prize Accounts For Financial Boom of Royal Foundation

Prince William and Kate Middleton's Royal Foundation, which was once shared with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle before the couple stepped down as working royals, has reported a stellar financial year for 2021 having increased its income by 73 percent over 2020.

The increased income was matched by the foundation's expenditure which increased from £9.2 million in 2020 to a record £16.4 million in 2021—96 percent of which was spent on charitable activities including financial grants.

The driving force behind this success has been Prince William's environmental initiative, the Earthshot Prize which was launched in 2020 and held its inaugural award ceremony in October 2021.

Prince William and Kate Middleton Earthshot Prize
The Royal Foundation's increase in financial income and expenditure for 2021 has been, in part, attributed to Prince William's Earthshot Prize. Photographed with Kate Middleton at the first prize ceremony, October 17, 2021. Karwai Tang/WireImage

The prize's stated goal is to help identify and promote the solutions to help repair the planet over the course of the next ten years.

Each year, five solution "earthshots" are selected and awarded a cash sum to assist in the scaling up of their initiatives.

Alongside the Earthshot Prize, the Royal Foundation also oversees the Kate Middleton-led Centre for Early Childhood as well as William's United for Wildlife taskforce.

While the foundation's financial outlook has steadily increased, the dramatic injection of funding has been attributed by trustees in their annual report published on Thursday to Earthshot.

"The Earthshot Prize was the largest area of programmatic work," they said, "reflecting the evolution of this project from its planning, research and design stage in 2020 into a fully realized prize culminating in a high-profile awards ceremony in 2021."

This has been reflected in the level of expenditure lavished on the prize, including the staging of a high profile awards ceremony in London and £1 million grants allocated to five prize winners which will be paid over three years.

Where in 2020 spending on the Earthshot Prize accounted for just £1.5 million of the Royal Foundation's finances, this number increased to £12.5 million in 2021.

To accommodate this, the foundation's fundraising was increased to bring in £20.4 million, though the booming year is not expected to see itself replicated for 2022 as it was announced in July that the Earthshot Prize would separate from the Cambridge's foundation to become its own separate charitable entity with Prince William as president.

The Royal Foundation's annual report states that: "With The Earthshot Prize transitioning out of the Foundation in the second half of 2022, it is expected that expenditure for this project and for the Foundation as a whole will be considerably lower in 2022 compared to 2021."

Prince William Earthshot Prize
Prince William is the president of the newly independent Earthshot Prize charitable organization which seeks to identify solutions to the planet's environmental problems. Photographed October 17, 2021. Yui Mok/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The announcement that the prize would become an independent organization also came with it a list of newly appointed trustees which included among their number a former Kensington Palace staff member at the center of the bullying accusations lodged against Meghan Markle.

Jason Knauf was the former communications secretary at Kensington Palace working with both William and Kate, and Harry and Meghan before their royal households split. After this the aide went on to become CEO of the Royal Foundation from 2019 to early 2022.

In 2021 a leaked email sent by Knauf to Prince William's private secretary was published by U.K. broadsheet newspaper The Times in which he expressed concern that Meghan had "bullied" female staff members into quitting their jobs.

The duchess has always denied the allegations.

The leak was published in the run up to the broadcast of Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah Winfrey and a spokesperson for the duchess said that the story was part of a "calculated smear campaign."

Knauf joins Zoë Ware, Williams former assistant private secretary, and Jean Christophe Gray, his current private secretary among the trustees.

Jason Knauf Earthshot Prize
Jason Knauf, the former Kensington Palace staffer at the center of bullying accusations against Meghan Markle, has been appointed as a trustee to the newly independent Earthshot Prize charitable organization. Photographed at the 2021 Earthshot Prize ceremony while CEO of the Royal Foundation, October 17, 2021. Alberto Pezzali/WPA Pool/Getty Images

So, 2022 looks to be the biggest year yet for the prize as it also announced last month that the second annual awards ceremony will take place in the city of Boston in early December.

Though it has not yet been confirmed whether William and Kate will travel to the U.S. for the event, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is serving as a host partner, alongside Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

The Earthshot Prize has credited JFK's 1962 "moonshot" speech as a driving inspiration for the organization's stating of the bold mission to "find and grow the solutions that will repair our planet this decade."

Newsweek approached the Royal Foundation for comment.

For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast: