TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


The future king of England made it clear that on one of his first nights in America, he wanted to see friends: no fuss, no speeches, no benefits, just a simple, lighthearted dinner at a private home. The Prince of Wales wanted to catch up with the people he has befriended during the 20 visits he has made to the United States over the last 45 years and the pals he’s entertained in England during his annual Prince’s Trust weekends. Charles and his duchess host these long weekends at Buckingham Palace and Highgrove, his country estate in Gloucestershire, where he likes to show guests his prized hosta garden.


Those who travel in the highest circles of international society declared this black tie dinner for 100 “the invitation of the year.” This was a truly rare, almost utterly extinct species of exclusive evenings. No presidents or candidates, Hollywood stars, fashion editors or cameras cracked the prince’s personal guest list. The invitation was elegant in its simplicity, a dinner “In Honor of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of

Cornwall.” For security reasons, guests were not told the address of the dinner until just before the party. It was held at the Georgetown mansion of Barbara Allbritton, who is the chairman of the Prince’s Trust in the United States. All the guests, including Ambassador Peter Westmacott, were asked to check their phones at the door. They were placed, along with an admittance card bearing one’s name in beautifully executed calligraphy, into a sealed plastic bag. The cocktail hour was held on the main floor of the sprawling townhouse amidst old

master paintings and 18th-century furniture. The prince, wearing a pocket square that coordinated with his bride’s gown, greeted half the guests in the drawing room. The duchess, who wore a beige sheath with a silver overlay under a silk cape and a magnificent diamond and pearl choker and earrings, greeted the other half in the library.


And what did Charles talk about? “Getting down on the floor and doing silly things with small people” (that’s Prince George to you!) and the time “the Nixons invited me to the White House and tried to marry me off to Tricia Nixon: that was quite amusing,” he chuckled with a twinkle in his eye. Charles confided that William

and Kate were doing “just fine” but said he didn’t know if they were expecting a little prince or princess. In the mix were Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera, Patricia Hearst Shaw, Tom Quick, Mercedes Bass, Audrey and Martin Gruss, and Anna Weatherley. Camilla chatted about her visit to the Lincoln Memorial and reminisced about her and Charles’s first visit to New York ten years ago, saying she’d like to come back.


At eight, the guests were led out to the garden, which had been tented for the occasion and lined in pale moss green. The florists had created a trellised greenhouse reminiscent of those you see at L’Orangerie in Versailles, dotted with topiaries and trailing vines. Two long tables, each seating fifty, centered the room. A low centerpiece of spring flowers in pinks and oranges ran down the center of the tables. The prince sat

in the middle of one table, with Barbara Allbritton on his right and Sallie Phillips on his left. The duchess held down the other table, laughing and telling stories about their last trip to California and how she hoped everyone would be coming to England to visit. A pianist played softly and accompanied the tenor Alfie Boe, who sang several songs, including “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables. Dinner began with crab, lobster and asparagus salad crowned with a poached egg that was dressed with hollandaise sauce. “You are what you eat,”

said Charles, who talked about organic farming, climate change and his trip to George Washington’s plantation in Virginia in between bites of roasted Angus tenderloin, a selection of organic vegetables and sweet corn pudding. The wines were superb, a Puligny-Montrachet 2009 and an Opus One 2011, and a Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé was used for the single toast Barbie made to welcome the Prince to our shores and assure everyone there would be “no speeches tonight.” To cap the repast, a Vacherin cake was served with either raspberry or chocolate sauce to Wilbur Ross, Lynn Wyatt and Romero Britto as others of that ilk and stripe smiled and smiled,

happy as clams to be in the royal presence.


On the way out there was a bit of discreet bowing and curtsying as everyone took home a tin box with red and blue M&M’s—yes M&M’s, with the Prince of Wales’s feathers embossed on them and adorable little boxes of white chocolates with even more feathers festooning the sweets. The Duchess of Windsor liked her feathers in diamonds, but you already knew that, n’est-ce pas? And finally, the cell phones, lined up like little bearskin-hatted soldiers, were waiting for you on silver trays. I wish I could tell you more, but I promised not repeat the choicest tidbits. Who else could tell you these things?


Allison and Tara Rockefeller, Nicole Hanley Mellon, Celerie Kemble and Andrew Roosevelt hosted the Museum of the City of New York Directors Council’s toast to Luxe Brand’s Joy by Jean Patou’s Century of Style event at Bergdorf Goodman. Legendary parfumeur Thomas Fontaine gave an informative talk and Mark Gilbertson announced that Luxe Brands will co-sponsor the museum’s fall gala. mcny.org . . . Designers Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper, who designed the interiors of the Baccarat Towers Hotel & Residences, unveiled the $60 million duplex penthouse and other spaces to the cognoscenti, including Kim Cattrall, Starwood’s CEO Barry Sternlicht, Gillian Miniter, Shane Inman and Corcoran’s CEO Pamela Liebman. baccaratresidencesny.com . . . Audrey and Martin Gruss gave a dinner in the pretty pavilion of their Palm Beach home to thank the doctors and donors of the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. Guests included Tatiania and Campion Platt, Geoffrey Bradfield and James Borynack. hopefordepression.org . . . Eric Fischl hosted Guild Hall’s Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Awards. The honorees were Matthew Broderick, Jules Feiffer, Ralph Gibson and Linda and Harry Macklowe. guildhall.org


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by Debbie BancroftPhotographed by Griffin Lipson and Hunter Abrams/BFA.com