London - A harp and some of the best hands in the business to play it, a candy floss machine, meat provided for the foodie crowd by arguably the finest butcher in New York, and the most expensive and largest suite in America.
Meghan Markle’s baby shower – co-hosted by glossy human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and paid for by £140-million tennis player Serena Williams – cannot be said to have lacked any luxury.
Held at The Mark hotel on the Upper East Side of New York, it saw the Duchess of Sussex’s closest friends come together to celebrate her forthcoming baby in five-star style.
At 11.45am, just as her guests began to gather, snow started to fall, lending an appropriately fairytale touch to an out-of-this-world party. Surely there’s never been a baby shower quite like this one, which combined unlimited funds with an unbridled taste for the best.
Previously, when members of the Royal Family have stayed in New York, they have been found at The Carlyle, a byword for old-world elegance and by no means cheap. That looks modest and dull compared with The Mark, an over-the-top hymn to all that is trendy and monochrome. The hotel has so little fear of being seen as vulgar that it actually markets itself as "NYC’s most boldly lavish five-star hotel".
Fans include chat show host Oprah Winfrey (who was at Meghan’s wedding), supermodel Gisele Bundchen and singer and actress Selena Gomez.
Meghan’s party was held in the penthouse suite – a spectacular set of rooms previously graced by ex-president Bill Clinton, former Russian premier Mikhail Gorbachev and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. It costs up to £66 000 (about R1.2-million) a night, making it the most expensive and largest suite in America.
On to that you may add £15 312 for accommodation for Meghan, 37, who stayed in a two-bedroom suite on the tenth floor for six nights. Add a further £100 000 for a return trip on a private jet and possibly another £30 000 or more on catering, entertainment and favours for guests.
If you tot it all up – and if (and it’s a big if) Serena didn’t get discounts or freebies – the afternoon party may have cost over £210 000. That’s enough to buy a three-bedroom house in much of Britain.
Flowering cherry trees were delivered to the hotel on Tuesday afternoon, thought to be destined for the grand ballroom in the penthouse, and meat was seen being delivered by butchers DeBragga – whose steaks cost up to £150 each – along with a candy floss machine.
So what did the baby shower party get for all this expense? They had the run of a vast two-floor set of rooms, with five bedrooms, two bars, a conservatory, a library and a terrace so large that it hosts small weddings. With an interior by Jacques Grange, Valentino’s favoured designer, it’s not far off a palace, all ebony fittings and fine Italian linens.
Guests were serenaded by Erin Hill, America’s top harpist. Luggage designed by model Karlie Kloss – gifts for attendees, perhaps – was seen arriving, as was a Babyletto cot, presumably for the baby who will be the seventh in line to the throne when he or she arrives in April.
Inside with the duchess were her invited guests: fashion designer Misha Nonoo, who introduced her to Harry; Serena and Amal; Jessica Mulroney, her best friend in Toronto who now advises her on styling; former Suits co-star Abigail Spencer; TV presenter Gayle King, who is Oprah’s best friend; and Meghan’s friend Markus Anderson, an executive at the Soho House group.
Anderson was at the duchess’s side during her six-day stay.
Serena, who had been out with Meghan bringing the Big Apple to a standstill on Tuesday, was already in the hotel as they arrived.
Guests inside the hotel said they saw the duchess wearing a black and white polka dot dress ahead of her party. During her New York trip, Meghan has worn a £2 250 navy Victoria Beckham coat, a vintage grey Courreges coat, black skinny jeans and black satin boots from Isabel Marant, and carried a £915 black chain-handle handbag by vegan designer Stella McCartney.
She has been chauffeured in an SUV belonging to the State Department and has had US special agents for protection due to her status as a British royal. There are also at least two officers from the Met Police.
Meghan was thought to be flying home to London on an overnight flight last night. She and Prince Harry are due in Casablanca on Saturday.