BOSTON — Crowds had gathered at rain-swept City Hall Plaza to welcome Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales, the photogenic royals who touched down on Wednesday for a whirlwind three-day tour.
So were patrons abuzz about the visit two miles away at Santarpio’s, a bare-bones bar and pizza joint, and East Boston institution?
“Not yet,” a bartender said dryly as he hustled crispy pizzas and plates of steaming sausage to a row of diners Wednesday night, his expression suggesting the likelihood of any buzz was quite low.
As breathless online commentary tracked the royal couple’s every movement and designer wardrobe change for a global audience of devoted palace watchers, laconic swaths of their host city remained unimpressed, if not wholly unaware of their presence.
At a Dunkin’ in the diverse Dorchester neighborhood on Thursday, a woman waiting for her order in a puffy winter coat, hood up, declined to talk to a reporter, then asked what the story was about.
Informed of the topic, she curtly shook her head.
“Don’t care,” she said.
The city’s history helps explain its deep veins of indifference, said Brooke Barbier, a historian who also offers guided tours of Boston. Because its identity is so rooted in the American Revolution and its rejection of monarchy, and because its landscape is still littered with vivid reminders of that past, “it makes sense, even centuries later, that Boston can’t care about the monarchy,” she said. “Even if, secretly, they care.”
Commuters cross the site of the Boston Massacre on their way to the subway (the place where it happened, then King Street, was later renamed); at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, actors routinely re-enact the colonists’ famous 1773 protest against British taxation.
Fans of the first-place Boston Celtics seemed to channel vestiges of that feistiness on Wednesday night, when William and Kate attended a game at TD Garden alongside city officials, and were reportedly met with scattered chants of “USA! USA!” amid the louder cheering, when their faces were shown on a giant screen.
Asked after the game about the thrill of playing in front of royalty, the Celtics star Jaylen Brown, a Georgia native, did not hide his disinterest.
“It was just a regular game to me,” he said.
Some Bostonians said they cannot tolerate the royal family because of allegations of racism among some members and associates, including a new report this week of racist comments by Prince William’s godmother.
“I can’t talk about them because I’ll get mad,” said a woman hurrying to catch a train in Dorchester on Thursday, referencing reports that the royal family had mistreated Meghan Markle, William and Kate’s sister-in-law, who is biracial.
At a ceremony welcoming the couple on Wednesday, one city official, the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, made a point of calling out a “legacy of colonialism and racism” linked to the monarchy.
In true Boston fashion, traffic was also a sticking point, with many locals dreading the prospect of more disruption and delay caused by the royal entourage and security. In neighboring Somerville, where the prince and princess planned to visit an environmental start-up incubator, some took to Twitter to lament the likely impact on their grocery shopping, calling it “a bad day to go to Market Basket,” a reference to the beloved local grocery chain.
Still, many noted with approval the higher purpose for the royal visit. Friday evening, William and Kate planned to announce the winners of the Earthshot Prize, the award they created to encourage work addressing climate change. The project was inspired by John F. Kennedy’s 1960s “moon shot” challenge, which pledged to send Americans to the moon within the decade — a connection that inspired the choice of Boston as the first American city to host the glitzy awards ceremony, to be held at a venue next to Fenway Park.
Also on Friday, William was scheduled to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester for a tour and a meeting with President Biden, a part of the prince’s itinerary that won him grudging acknowledgment from some locals.
“They seem to have done their homework, and they’re referencing things that Bostonians care about,” said Ann Walsh, a lifelong Dorchester resident. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them, but they are genuinely charming.”
That said, she deemed the visit “not much of an event” and said she would be offended by any excessive show of deference to royalty: “This is America, and I think that’s an important part of who we are, that we don’t deify people.”
At Dorchester’s storied Eire Pub, where news coverage of the royals flashed on TVs above the bar, Johnny Curran, a longtime bartender, said he had heard no chatter about the visit.
“I said to my wife this morning, ‘I put my pants on the same way he does — why is he so special?’” one patron, Kevin Healey, said of the prince.
Pockets of enthusiasm could be found. The Subway sandwich shop on Dorchester’s Morrissey Boulevard, near the JFK museum, was one.
“People are pretty excited,” said Michelle Maduka, an employee who attends school at the nearby Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts.
Excited about the proximity to royalty? Well, no.
“There’s definitely going to be a lot of traffic, and last time when Biden came, some classes were canceled,” Ms. Maduka said.
A co-worker, Daniel Eke, said he would not mind meeting the prince. Mr. Eke was not scheduled to work on Friday, but he had begun to wonder if he should.
“If you could tell me they’re coming here — like, they love Subway and they’re coming to Morrissey Boulevard — then I’m going to pick up Friday,” he said.