With its pomp, ceremony and all-star guest list, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was undoubtedly the royal event of the past year.
But if scenes outside a five-star New York hotel were anything to go by, even the glamour of that celebration could have been surpassed by none other than the Sussex baby shower.
The Duchess of Sussex was celebrating the impending arrival of the seventh-in-line to the throne, in a penthouse suite with her celebrity friends, including Amal Clooney and Serena Williams.
The front entrance of The Mark Hotel was transformed into a makeshift red carpet, with guest arrivals documented by photographers outside.
A candyfloss machine was seen to be delivered, along with a musician wheeling a harp. Guests carried large gift bags with presents wrapped in blue and orange tissue paper, while Serge Normant, a hairdresser, and Daniel Martin, a make-up artist, were seen walking in to join the fun.
Markus Anderson, a director at Soho House who accompanied the Duchess to her first public appearance with Prince Harry at the Toronto Invictus Games, was also in attendance, entering with Misha Nonoo, the designer, who clutched a bag from Zittles, a children’s clothing store. Gayle King, television host and a friend of Oprah Winfrey, bore a gift bag, and actress Abigail Spencer — one of the first in and laden with bags — wore a baseball cap. Mrs Clooney, the human rights lawyer whose husband, George, recently spoke of how the Duchess is being “pursued and vilified and chased in the same way that Diana was”, wore a red jumpsuit, black jacket slung over her shoulders, and gold heels.
Taryn Toomey, the fitness “guru” who offers “music-driven, mat-based practice of self study through physical conditioning”, was also seen.
Adding to the festivities was a suitcase brand taking the opportunity to deliver clearly labelled cases, apparently intended as gifts.
The party came on the second day of unexpected activity at the hotel, during the Duchess’s “private” visit to New York to see friends.
On Tuesday, news of her whereabouts was briefed to US celebrity magazines before she was photographed walking out of the hotel’s main entrance wearing dark sunglasses for an outing to a busy art gallery cafe and a high-end restaurant for lunch. By the evening, the Duchess, Williams, Anderson, Spencer, and Jessica Mulroney, the Canadian stylist, were dining at The Polo Bar, owned by Ralph Lauren and regularly listed among the best restaurants for celebrity spotting in New York City.
Yesterday, the US online version of Tatler was briefed details of the shower itself by a “source”, relaying the time and the guest list.
“The baby shower will kick off with a flower arranging lesson accompanied by a dessert table prepared by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the restaurant’s head chef, who will be there to greet them,” it said.
The penthouse of the hotel is described as a “castle in the sky”, with space for a Grand Ballroom and an outdoor terrace amid its many rooms at a reported cost of $75,000 per night.
The bill is understood to have been paid by the Duchess’s friends, with Williams named by several US outlets as the “host” and who issued photographs of herself inside the hotel wearing her own clothing line on Instagram.
The meticulously-planned baby shower was carried out without the assistance of Kensington Palace, with the Duchess accompanied only by her protection officers rather than by aides from her private office or press team.