Depending on your personal point of view, it was either an unedifying spectacle or a suitable return home for Meghan Markle.
The former TV actor and now the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan was snapped outside New York hotel The Mark on February 20, a five-strong security cordon holding photographers and gawping public at bay.
Wearing active wear and sneakers, the pregnant duchess, 37 – whose child will be seventh in line to the British throne – smiled under a baseball cap pulled low over her face.
The sight of the California native living spotlit showbiz moments in America for her star-studded baby shower blowout had celebrity sites scrambling: Is the Windsor family’s newest recruit still too Hollywood at heart?
“In oversize sunglasses and black, Meghan looked thrilled to be stepping back into her old stilettos,” Vanity Fair said, in a subtle pot shot.
Meghan, according to reports, had her trip paid for by wealthy friends who stumped up for everything from her private jet flight from London to the bed she slept in.
It set off media alarm bells – a duchess accepting vulgar largesse from commoners! – but while the rules around royals accepting gifts are lengthy, it seems taking them from people they know is OK.
Royals commentator Victoria Arbiter said a “lavish baby shower would be seen as highly inappropriate” for royals because “there’s nothing they can’t go out and buy themselves”.
Fudge, says royals expert Giselle Bastin, associate professor at Flinders University, who is over the scrutiny of Meghan’s actions.
“There’s an air of desperation in the media’s efforts to conjure stories about Meghan and her pregnancy, Meghan and her relationship with Kate and William,” Ms Bastin told The New Daily.
“Personally, I’m waiting for the stories about Meghan as yummy mummy whipping her figure back into shape within 10 minutes of giving birth, or as demon new mother suffering from postpartum depression and sacking even more staff.”
The inevitable conjecture, Ms Bastin said, will appear “in the form of ‘Meghan and Harry to divorce’ stories” probably “within months of the baby – or babies – being born”.
The academic’s nod at the swirling media theory that Meghan’s ever-growing baby bump may indicate twins is indicative of how ingrained in popular culture the duchess is.
Last year, for the second year in a row, she was the most Googled person in the world and since her May wedding to Prince Harry has ridden a wave of both public adulation and vitriol that even saw former first lady Michelle Obama chime in.
In an extraordinary PR step, earlier this month unnamed Meghan confidantes defended her to People magazine, and actor George Clooney warned she is being “pursued and vilified” like her late mother-in-law Princess Diana.
Showing how much Meghan still meshes her royal world with her former Hollywood life, Clooney’s barrister wife Amal Clooney was among the guests at Meghan’s luxe baby shower.
As was breathlessly reported, the party was thrown by long-time Markle pal Serena Williams, and cost about $386,000, according to Vanity Fair.
Style bible Tatler said Williams forked out for Meghan to stay in the $75,000-a-night, five-bedroom Grand Penthouse.
With library and private terrace access, it’s the largest penthouse in the US and is called a “castle in the sky” on its website.
During her New York sojourn, she had macarons at Laduree, shopped for baby clothes at Bonpoint, hit up the Met Breuer museum and lunched at the upmarket Surrey hotel and The Polo Bar at Ralph Lauren.
The crowning glory was the party on Wednesday (US time), which saw dozens of pale pink roses and a fairy floss machine carried into The Mark. Games reportedly included a flower-arranging lesson and dessert tasting experience.
Guests including stylist Jessica Mulroney, designer Misha Nonoo, actor Priyanka Chopra and Suits co-star Abigail Spencer were given a $490 suitcase each as bonbonniere.
The fact Meghan had a baby shower is said to prove she’s still into US traditions, although Kate Middleton had one – a private affair at a friend’s house – before giving birth to Prince George in 2013.
“As an American, she was very excited to have a baby shower thrown for her. I think she’d have felt she was missing out if she didn’t,” a source told Vanity Fair.
“She is with her oldest friends in the city she loves and really enjoying herself.”
Next up for Meghan? It’s back to duchess life on an three-day official trip to Morocco with Harry, starting on Saturday.