Not all charity galas are created equal. It is always a gracious touch and a special draw when a fundraiser is held a private home and when a special guest is added to the mix. Tonight the private home was the magnificent Houghton Hall, a Palladian mansion set in the rolling lush hills of the Norfolk countryside, and the special guest was the glittering Duchess of Cambridge herself. The event, dubbed A Taste of Norfolk, saw an elite group of philanthropists gather toward dusk to clink champagne glasses and toast EACH's capital campaign.
The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge were both honored guests at what was a thank-you event that took place a hop, skip, and a jump from their own Anmer Hall hideaway located just a few miles down the road. Kate and William arrived by chauffeured Jaguar and were greeted on the front steps by their friends and hosts the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley.
You might recall that in Downton Abbey [final season spoiler alert] when Edith married she was raised to the exalted rank of Marchioness. Rose and David are chums of the Cambridges and are members of the Norfolk set with whom the royals enjoy socializing in country. Interestingly, before she married, the Marchioness was a fashion-model, so the women make quite a striking duo. (Tonight the hostess chose Valentino.)
Their hosts didn't waste much time getting drinks into the royals' hands and the meeting & greeting got going. Kate very, very rarely ever drinks publicly, although we know that she does in private, but tonight she was clearly holding a glass of wine. Although it doesn't look like she was making the same headway as her companions, it underlines the intimacy of the evening. She seemed to view it more like a personal social event and less like a work one.
You probably remember that Kate helped launch the capital campaign in 2014 while in the early stages of her pregnancy with Princess Charlotte. She was the obvious choice to lead the appeal given her heavy involvement with EACH and the fact that the new facility will be right in her Norfolk backyard.
Guests were entertained tonight by a number of performances while the evening glow cast a flattering golden tone across all assembled. I know many a fashionista prayer was answered when it was revealed that Kate had recycled the blush sequined evening gown she first debuted at the Ark gala in 2011. Tonight, it absolutely glittered as it was brushed by the setting sun.
This dress's debut was the very first public engagement that Kate undertook as a royal, if you discount Epsom, which I do. It seems so long ago and at the same time the excitement still feels fresh. I remember when it was announced that the gown Kate was wearing was by Jenny Packham. Little did any of us know what an extraordinary and lasting collaborative relationship would blossom there. It was the first of many Packham evenings, but I think for many it remains one of the best.
Tonight's recycle, with the same L.K. Bennett shoes and Prada clutch, was particularly lovely because Kate wore her hair in a chignon, revealing the diaphanous, rolled neckline which had been obscured by Kate's incredible, post-marriage locks before.
This was the perfect dress for this night. The beading caught the setting sun and the soft blush pink blended perfectly with the peaceful backgrounds. It is a glamorous dress that held its own at a power-packed London gala, but seemed gentle and alluring at this more sedate, albeit no less pricey, dinner party. Kate added even more sparkle to the ensemble with her earrings loaned from Her Majesty and the diamond encrusted bracelet, also loaned from the Queen, that we first saw at the China State Banquet.
This was an event we have been looking forward to for many months. There were not as many pictures as we would get at a big fundraiser in London and we had to wait for poor Richard Palmer to drive five miles up the road to find cell reception to text out the first early photos of what Kate was wearing, but A Taste of Norfolk did not disappoint. It was everything I had hoped for from a gala at one of Britain's palatial estates. Kate was glowing, the gown was glittering...it was a success! It's hard to believe that June 9, 2011 is already five years in the rearview, but time hasn't dulled the Duchess a bit. See you soon for more royal adventures!