Kate and William have officially said ta-ta to the city.
The royals made the final stop on their whirlwind Stateside tour on Tuesday night, a fund-raiser for the University of St. Andrews at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This story first appeared in the December 10, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Guests attending the fund-raiser — kilted university alums and museum patrons — had already ascended the steps well before the Duke and Duchess materialized. The sirens from their motorcade could be heard echoing the neighborhood just after 7 p.m., signaling fans to get their smartphones ready. The entourage pulled up shortly thereafter with the Duke and Duchess exiting the SUV to an erupting Fifth Avenue. They were greeted by a band of tuxedoed St. Andrews officials. Again, the couple had their backs to the crowd — press and fans barricaded across the street. The photographers piped up with the familiar pleas: “Kate! Kate! Turn around!” Halfway up the steps, the pair swiveled around and waved in unison, an almost comically synchronized move.
But even the royals aren’t immune to New York City traffic and weather. The nor’easter that hit the region Tuesday not only put somewhat of a damper on their visit (it rarely rains like this in the U.K., even in Scotland) but also for a time threw the royal itinerary off track — if only by 45 minutes.
The first stop Tuesday morning was a tour of the 9/11 Memorial where the Duchess stood out in a fuchsia Mulberry double-breasted wool coat with black buttons over a $99 Séraphine dress (hey, royals are on a budget, too), high black heels, black gloves with her dark hair pulled back. She and the Duke, in a single-breasted navy suit, stopped for a moment of reflection before laying a bouquet of flowers on the parapets surrounding the reflection pools outside the museum’s entrance. Then with a subtle wave to the group of photographers, the couple walked inside to tour the memorial.
After a short visit, the couple visited The Door and The CityKids Foundation, a youth organization that promotes youth development and social learning. Before their arrival, the teens inside the building were spotted peering out the windows for a glimpse of the royal couple. A spokeswoman for The Door said the two first met privately with a group of around eight kids to talk to them about their lives and the struggles of growing up in New York City, before taking a tour of the facility. They then were treated to a 20-minute performance featuring a youth-written original song, dance and theater piece and led a standing ovation at its conclusion before shaking hands with all the performers, most aged 15 to 22, and scooting off to their next appointment.
Next up was a reception celebrating British creative talent, held at NeueHouse. The pair was expected to arrive for a 12:15 p.m. start time, but the waiting crowd — a handful of shivering photographers and a pair of twentysomethings on their lunch break — was informed by a British handler that they were running slightly behind schedule. One of the lunch breakers nervously checked her watch. “My boss is going to wonder where I am,” she said. “But I just love them so much…”
Around 12:45 p.m., the NYPD began to set up barricades around the perimeter, alerting photographers to get into position, as well as drawing another dozen or so passersby to stop. “Is there a movie star coming?” several asked. Nope, just the potential future king of England. (The amount of shrugs in response suggested that someone along the lines of Julia Roberts or Channing Tatum would’ve drawn a bigger crowd).
At last, a parade of black SUVs pulled down the otherwise blocked-off street. Police officers surrounded the space’s main entrance as a car pulled up. Professional cameras and iPhones alike focused as the backseat doors opened to reveal…non-royals.
Kate and William were, in fact, in the car directly behind the one in the line of focus. Swiftly, and surrounded by a group of bodyguards, the couple — Kate still wearing the bright pink Mulberry coat she’d worn earlier in the day over the Séraphine dress — entered through a previously unnoticed side door. Annoyed photographers speculated about whether the barricades had been a strategized decoy, or if the royals had simply opted for the closest door. “Whatever it was, I was not expecting that,” one said, packing up his equipment.
Inside, the couple toured the space, which houses a private work collective for those within the creative fields. Others at the reception included NeueHouse founders Joshua Abram and Alan Murray, as well as Nima Abbasi of Crest & Co., Glenda Bailey, Georgina Chapman and Harvey Weinstein, Peter Copping, Alexander Gilkes and Misha Nonoo, Imogen Lloyd Webber, Jenna Lyons, actress Archie Panjabi and Stuart Vevers. The event also served as an announcement for NeueHouse’s third location in — where else — London. The location, within the capital’s historic Adelphi Building, is expected to open in late 2015.
Perhaps the five-months pregnant Kate needed a break after that, for Prince William went solo on a visit to the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observation deck. The location, the most touristy of the trip, beefed up the fanfare with a crowd spilling over the barricades. Most rubberneckers were passersby who stumbled upon the scene. The scaffolding stretching down 34th Street acted as a makeshift awning so the crowd stayed dry.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio arrived at 2:45 p.m. and was ushered inside with Police Commissioner William Bratton. The motorcade pulled up at 3:20 p.m. and William was swiftly escorted inside, waving on his way in to the fans.
Photographers loitered around for several minutes after due to a false alarm. After William exited the SUV and made his way inside the building, security personnel kept his car door slightly ajar, suggesting his wife would follow. It was later discovered to be a security measure: the car door must remain open until William has been confirmed as secure inside. The open car door would ostensibly save time should William need to vacate exigently. “Ha! Like that’s going to help,” one photographer cracked.