Meghan Markle’s closest friends have begun arriving at a luxury New York City hotel to attend the royal’s intimate baby shower.
The 37-year-old’s former Suits co-star and close pal Abigail Spencer was the first of the royal’s nearest and dearest to be seen making their way into The Mark hotel on New York’s Upper East Side – trying to maintain a low profile by wearing a gray beanie hat and large, dark sunglasses as she made her way inside, flashing a wave at the waiting photographers on her way in.
Abigail, also 37, sparked furious speculation that she had traveled to the Big Apple for the special occasion after sharing an airport selfie on her Instagram account on Monday – less than 24 hours before she was seen making her way into The Mark, shortly after bouquets of flowers, an orange tree, and a $380 travel crib were seen being delivered to the swanky venue.
Honored guests: Meghan Markle’s close friend and former co-star Abigail Spencer was arriving at The Mark hotel on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the royal’s baby shower
Reunion: The 37-year-old was bundled up in a thick coat as she arrived at the hotel, and appeared to be trying to stay under the radar, wearing a gray beanie hat pulled down low over her face, and a pair of dark glasses
Audience: Crowds of people had begun to gather outside the hotel, watching Abigail closely as she walked into the venue, carrying a colorful plastic bag in her hand, which appeared to be housing a tissue paper-wrapped gift
Special delivery! Her arrival comes shortly after flowers were seen being delivered to The Mark on Tuesday afternoon, prompting furious speculation that the Upper East Side hotel will play host to Meghan’s baby shower
Gifts? A man and a woman were seen getting several different flower arrangements out of the back of a van, including a large bouquet of pink roses, which quickly sparked rumors that Meghan is expecting a baby girl
For luck: An orange tree was also seen being delivered to the hotel ahead of the baby shower; in Eastern tradition, mandarin oranges are believed to represent prosperity, happiness and luck, particularly in the New Year
Step aside! As well as the flowers, staff at the hotel were also seen wheeling in a large box housing a $379 travel crib, which may well have been a gift for the duchess, or a prop for the party
On Monday night, the duchess attempted to go incognito as she covered up in a cap and long navy Victoria Beckham overcoat and a gray newsboy cap pulled down over her dark brown hair – and with her large diamond engagement ring clearly visible on her wedding finger.
Meghan returned to the Big Apple over the weekend to spend time with her girlfriends before the arrival of her first child this spring, and was seen on Monday evening being escorted into an SUV by a royal protection officer.
The 37-year-old royal is understood to have flown into the city on Friday for a surprise five-day trip after spending a quiet Valentine’s Day evening with her husband, Prince Harry. A spokesperson for Kensington Palace would not divulge details of the Duchess’s flights, but confirmed that as this is a private trip, her travel was ‘privately funded’.
The palace also declined to comment on Meghan’s security detail for the duration of the trip, or the plain clothes officer seen accompanying her.
Incognito: Meghan Markle was seen stepping out in New York City on Monday evening after flying into the city to attend a baby shower organized by her closest friends
Helping hand: A bodyguard escorted the royal down a small flight of stairs during the outing, and was seen guiding the mother-to-be towards a waiting SUV
Bundling up: The royal showed off just a hint of a baby bump under the thick oversized coat, which was seen protruding slightly as she made her way to the car
Catching up: Meghan (pictured left and right with her husband in London last week) is reportedly in New York City visiting friends before the arrival of her royal baby this spring
Her low-key and relaxed itinerary is said to have already included shopping and plenty of good food, but the main event of the trip is a baby shower with 15 of her closest friends at a hotel on New York’s Upper East Side.
The intimate event, due to take place today, is believed to have been organised by her best friend Jessica Mulroney – who arrived in the city at the end of last week from her home in Toronto.
‘The trip is a lovely chance to catch up with friends and spend time in a city she loves. This will be the last time a lot of them will see Meg until after the baby is born so it’s nice to share precious moments,’ a source told Harper’s Bazaar.
Meghan kept her head down as she made her way to the SUV on Monday night, with her dark hair covering the side of her face. She carried a second wide-brimmed black hat – believed to be a £160 ($195) design from Rag & Bone – in her hand, along with a white bag.
But while the Duchess of Sussex appeared to be making an attempt to go under the radar in her low-key ensemble, the large diamond engagement ring on her wedding finger was unmistakable.
Her husband had the three-stone design made for her especially ahead of their engagement in 2017, using one diamond that he sourced in Botswana, where the couple holidayed together early on in their relationship.
The dazzling design was clearly visible as Meghan made her way down the steps and into the car, carrying her spare hat and a simple white bag that may well have contained a gift.
Her nails appeared to be painted with a subtle sheer pink shade – a much more low-key polish option than some of the darker, bolder colours she has been known to model, despite royal traditions suggesting that only the most subtle of nude shades should be worn.
In her other arm, the expectant mother had a large gray leather handbag held in the crook of her elbow.
The bodyguard who escorted her to her waiting vehicle also appeared to be carrying a few of her possessions, including a Lululemon tote bag that was covered with Meghan’s tan wool coat, suggesting the royal may have had more than one outfit option on-hand.
Keeping warm: The Duchess of Sussex kept warm in a dark wool coat, and was seen carrying a wide-brimmed black hat in her hand, along with a white bag
Glitz and glamour: Although Meghan seemed as though she was trying to maintain a low profile, the engagement ring on her finger was unmistakable. The three-stone ring was designed for her especially by her husband Prince Harry
Blending in: The Duchess of Sussex, seen with her plain clothes protection officer, also carried a dove gray handbag in the crook of her elbow
Meghan appeared to be going out of her way to remain unrecognizable during the short walk to the SUV, keeping her head lowered, and her hair pulled across her face – a far cry from the smiling, hands-on appearances for which she has become known at pubic events.
Her bodyguard also attempted to blend in, wearing a pair of charcoal-gray trousers, and a quilted blue coat with a hood. He also carried a phone in his hand, along with Meghan’s belongings.
Kensington Palace did not comment on the details surrounding the royal’s security detail during the trip, and it is not known whether the protection officers are being paid for privately, or by taxpayers.
Earlier this year it was announced that Meghan’s armed Scotland Yard bodyguard, who accompanied the expectant mother on her royal tour of Australia with Prince Harry last year, was quitting her post after less than a year in the role.
The inspector’s appointment as head of protection made her the first woman to hold such a key post for the royals, and she was regularly pictured guarding Meghan on overseas trips.
In January, it was revealed that protection officers tasked with guarding the Queen and other members of the royal family earned six-figure salaries in 2016/17, bringing in around $130,000 (£100,000) each, after winning a pay dispute with Scotland Yard over their ‘special escort’ allowance.
The latest accounts for the Metropolitan Police show 47 officers from the Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP) unit earned six-figures in 2016/2017. This is in addition to the large one-off payments given to officers after the dispute over the scrapping of escort allowance in 2012.
The Met has not disclosed the exact payments, but at least £5 million was paid out among the 47 officers, which works out at as an average of $137,512 (£106,383) each.
The visit marks the first time the Duchess of Sussex has been in the Big Apple since she said ‘I do’ to Prince Harry in May 2018, and she wasted no time before visiting some of her favourite hot spots.
Sources confirmed to Harper’s Bazaar that friends are throwing Megan a baby shower at an undisclosed Upper East Side hotel for 15 guests on Tuesday, the day before she leaves.
Surprise visit: It is the first time that Meghan has been photographed in the city during this trip, which is believed to have started on Friday when she flew in from London after spending Valentine’s Day with Prince Harry
On the go: The bodyguard who walked in front of her also carried some of her things, including another coat, suggesting that Meghan may have brought several outfit options with her
Shopping? The bodyguard held on to a Lululemon tote bag that was covered with a tan overcoat as he accompanied the pregnant Duchess of Sussex
Jessica Mulroney, Meghan’s close friend and unofficial stylist, is thought to not only be attending the shower, but also helping to spear-head the organization of the intimate event. The GMA fashion expert is also thought to have had a hand in helping Meghan with the planning of her wedding to Prince Harry.
Meanwhile, Meghan’s former Suits co-star Abigail Spencer took to Instagram Stories on Monday to reveal she was traveling, which suggests that she may be headed to New York City for the shower.
‘On the road again,’ she captioned the Instagram selfie that showed off her silver Away suitcase.
Although no other members of Meghan’s inner circle have confirmed any details about the shower, sources have told Harper’s Bazaar that the royal wanted the opportunity to spend time with her closest friends in one of her favorite cities before the birth of her first child, which is due in just a matter of months.
‘The trip is a lovely chance to catch up with friends and spend time in a city she loves,’ a source told the outlet.
‘This will be the last time a lot of them will see Meg until after the baby is born so it’s nice to share precious moments.’
But while the trip may have come as a surprise to some, according to the unidentified friend of the royal’s, Meghan’s visit to the Big Apple was actually planned months ago.
‘It’s been a relaxing visit. Nothing beats face time with your friends,’ the person added. ‘Meg will be flying home refreshed and relaxed – and with a lot of new baby clothes.’
Meghan’s close friend Priyanka Chopra spent Valentine’s Day in London, and it’s possible they traveled to New York City together the next day.
Tennis legend Serena Williams, Suits star Sarah Rafferty, designer Misha Nonoo, brand consultant Benita Litt, and college pal Lindsay Roth are also among the friends who are likely to to be guests at Meghan’s shower.
Pilates instructor Heather Dorak, another close friend who attended the royal wedding, welcomed her second child, a baby boy named Cody Cohen, on Valentine’s Day and presumably won’t be attending the exclusive party.
Out and about: The Duchess of Sussex and her close friend Jessica Mulroney (pictured in 2016) enjoyed macarons at Ladurée in SoHo on Saturday
Way back when: Meghan Markle once did a photo shoot for fashion brand Tod’s in the ornate French restaurant
Big Apple fun: A source said the trip is a chance for Meghan to ‘catch up with friends and spend time in a city she loves.’ The former actress is pictured in New York City in 2016
Headed to the Big Apple? Meghan’s former Suits co-star Abigail Spencer took to Instagram Stories to reveal she was traveling on Monday, wheeling a silver Away carry-on suitcase with her, as well as a chic black handbag and a brown shoulder bag
Meghan joined Jessica at Ladurée in SoHo on Saturday to enjoy macarons and tea in one of the location’s private spaces, according to Harper’s Bazaar.
Although Jessica is based in Canada, she arrived in New York late last week to film some style segments for Good Morning America, after being named the show’s newest fashion contributor in late 2018.
The decision to visit Ladurée may well have been Meghan’s however, as the known foodie once took part in a photo shoot for Tod’s in the ornately decorated French restaurant.
In an image from the shoot, she is seen sitting in the New York tourist hotspot, wearing a patterned suit, a white shirt, and a pair of silver Tod’s loafers with fringing detail on the front.
Her makeup for the shoot was rather more glamorous than the subtle, natural looks she seems to prefer now; in the photo, Meghan can be seen modeling a bright pink lip, and dark, smokey eyes, while staring right into the lens with a very serious expression on her face.
But it seems the somewhat unimpressed look she was making in the shot does not reflect her feelings about the French eatery, which is famed for its colorful confections and wide variety of teas, as well as its elegant interior.
The Duchess also praised the restaurant in an interview with writer Barry Samaha.
‘I love Ladurée in SoHo,’ she said. ‘It’s like a little slice of Paris in the middle of New York City.
‘It is absolutely beautiful, and the courtyard is awesome,’ she added. ‘Everyone should get the Coupe SoHo, which is this amazing salted caramel ice cream. It’s delicious!’
Another guest? It’s likely that Jessica, 38, stayed in New York for Meghan’s shower after arriving in the city last week to film a fashion segment for Good Morning America
On the guest list? Serena Williams (left) and Suits star Sarah Rafferty (right) both attended the royal wedding, and it’s likely they were invited to Meghan’s shower
Flight buddy? Meghan’s close friend Priyanka Chopra (pictured in NYC last week) spent Valentine’s Day in London, and it’s possible they traveled to New York together the next day
Her hands are full! Pilates instructor Heather Dorak, another friend who attended the royal wedding, welcomed a child on Valentine’s Day and presumably won’t be attending the shower
And it’s not just Ladurée that holds a special place in Meghan’s heart; the Duchess spoke on a number of occasions about her love for New York City and its many restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops, even giving the website Citiphile a full rundown of her favorite spots back while she was still starring as Rachel Zane in Suits.
During the interview with the site, Meghan referenced several much-loved New York establishments, including the Marlton Hotel, Italian eatery Babbo, piano bar Marie’s Crisis, and West Village favorite Fedora – which she praised for its dirty martinis.
But according to sources, when Meghan isn’t indulging in pastries from Ladurée, she will be spending much of her time enjoying the many amenities at the undisclosed five-star hotel where she is believed to be staying for the duration of her trip.
The day before she flew to New York, Meghan enjoyed a quiet Valentine’s Day evening with Prince Harry, their first as a married couple.
The Duke of Sussex, 34, spent the early part of February 14 in Norway meeting British armed forces who are taking part in winter survival training in the Arctic Circle.
Royal return: The visit marks the first time Meghan has been in the Big Apple since she said ‘I do’ to Prince Harry in May 2018. The couple is expecting their first child this spring
As part of his visit, Harry was shown Quincey Shelter, which resembles a makeshift igloo.
The space had been decorated with photographs of his wedding to Meghan ahead of his arrival, and he laughingly referred to as a ‘shrine’ when he saw it.
Harry chartered a private jet home to make it back in time to spend the rest of his day with his wife, who is a self-confessed ‘sucker for Valentine’s Day.’
Meghan wrote about her love of the romantic holiday on her now-defunct lifestyle blog The Tig.
‘Without fail, every February 14th, I wake up feeling like I’m immersed in a Robert Doisneau photo, waiting with bated breath to be dipped into a kiss,’ she said. ‘This is all happening in black and white, of course. And in Paris, if I had my way.
‘But delusions of Francophile grandeur aside, Valentine’s Day is special wherever you happen to find yourself. And in terms of gifts, be it breakfast in bed, a sweet love note, or a single flower, it really is the thought that counts.’
Meghan is expected to return to London on Wednesday, ahead of an official royal visit to Morocco with Harry on February 23.