Last Friday the Duchess of Sussex flew from London to New York City for a multi-day visit with friends that was capped with a baby shower at the Mark Hotel. News of her trip quickly leaked to the press, which then led to several days of paparazzi shots of Meghan walking in and out of hotels and restaurants, staff carrying up elaborate decorations and celebrity friends like Amal Clooney, Serena Williams and Jessica Mulroney.
There were three major sightings of Meghan, the first of which occurred on Tuesday – one saw her leaving the hotel and arriving for lunch at the Surrey hotel and the other arriving and departing dinner at the Polo Bar. The former saw her escorted out of the restaurant by not only her royal protection officers, but U.S. State Department officers, in a swirl of flashing lightbulbs and big sunglasses.
She was seen again on Wednesday before she left NYC to fly back to London dressed down in tennis shoes and a baseball cap.
Taken alongside reports that she flew privately both ways and the images of elaborate flowers, cotton candy machines and headlines with the price tag of the suite reserved for the occasion made for an altogether more glittery showing than one usually gets from the House of Windsor.
It has also – obviously – garnered pretty significant criticism. Meghan isn’t the first royal to take a lavish holiday, or even the first to accept the largesse of celebrity friends, but this was definitely a flashier, more public occasion than we’re used to seeing. Meeting up in NYC with this particular set of friends makes sense given that they’re all scattered about, but the problem is that while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the “girls trip,” it does present a unique optics problem for Meghan…namely that it’s strange for a member of the BRF to allow private time to be this public.
I’ve heard theories that once news of the trip was leaked to the press the Palace arranged for a few limited photo opportunities to stanch the bleeding and keep things under control, but I’m not sure I quite buy that. If Meghan always intended to dine out in the city then it feels incredibly naive to not think news of this would leak, photographers would gather and the tabloids would run with it.
More likely, I think this was what Meghan wanted to do and she decided to navigate the consequences. This was her first time back in the U.S. since her wedding, baby showers are more of a “thing” stateside and, well, it looks like it was fun.
Personally, I’m not offended by this display. Meghan is famous, so the attention comes with a territory. I’m not of the mind spending money undermines her philanthropy or charitable causes. And she was back in the UK with time to spare for her and Harry’s (now ongoing) trip to Morocco. No harm no foul in my book.
As for how this fits into the rest of the Windsors’ vibe, well, it doesn’t, but I don’t think that’s the end of the world. We’re very used to the current discretion of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, while the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall garner less day-to-day scrutiny, the Duke of York is roundly criticized for slightly different reasons altogether and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are of another generation entirely. The closest comparison then is the late Princess of Wales which puts Meghan in the unenviable position of being the anti-Kate and the new Diana. She is neither, of course – she attended a baby shower in New York and now she’s back on the job.
God knows the Queen has read worse headlines about her family.