NEW YORK: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate crowned their whirlwind tour of New York with a glittering gala dinner to raise money for the university where they fell in love.
The Duchess of Cambridge, resplendent in a midnight blue evening gown by the British designer Jenny Packham, swept up the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a huge smile on her face — despite the near-freezing weather.
Her hair fashioned into an elegant chignon and wearing drop emerald and diamond earrings, the duchess, who is five months pregnant, kept her baby bump nestled under the cinched waist and billowing skirts of the gown.
She and her husband, who was dressed in black tie and dinner jacket, mingled for drinks with guests in the opulent museum’s Velez Blanco Patio.
Hundreds of candles illuminated the stairwell at the benefit supper, which celebrated the 600th anniversary of the University of St Andrews in Scotland and which will raise money for scholarships.
Earlier in the day the royal couple, both 32, braved pouring rain to visit the 9/11 memorial, leaving a bouquet and handwritten note in memory of the nearly 3,000 victims of the Al-Qaeda attacks.
It was a somber note in an otherwise lightning tour that saw them hobnob with basketball superstar LeBron James, Beyonce and Jay-Z at an NBA game after William met US President Barack Obama on a solo side-trip to Washington.
Their three-day visit — their first to America’s biggest city — is a mix of diplomacy, supporting their favorite causes and promoting British business.
Second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles, William is increasingly taking on more long-haul work for the British monarchy as Queen Elizabeth II approaches her nineties.
The Duke and Duchess, who is expecting her second child in April, shielded under large black umbrellas while she delicately placed a bouquet of white lilies and roses at one of the 9/11 memorial’s two reflecting pools.
The names of every person who died are inscribed into bronze panels that border the pools and built in the footprint of the Twin Towers.
Kate wore a double-breasted cerise wool silk coat fastened with black buttons from British luxury label Mulberry, over her customary thick black tights and a pair of classic black pumps.
She wore her hair pulled back in a sleek pony tail, and finished her look by wearing black gloves and carrying a small black clutch.
The couple toured the museum, built into the bedrock of the Twin Towers and which documents the 2001 attacks and their legacy.
After the museum, they visited a youth organization that fosters artistic and intellectual development in Manhattan to watch an arts performance.
They then mingled with the likes of British actor Patrick Stewart and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein at a reception to celebrate creative British talent.
For the occasion, Kate wore a high-necked black maternity dress styled with a gold necklace and drop earrings.
Later in the afternoon, William went up The Empire State Building, while his wife rested. The couple, who are in the United States without their baby son George, are expected to fly home after the dinner.
New Yorkers have welcomed the British couple with warmth and hospitality — but also some amusement and bewilderment.
On Monday, LeBron James enthralled them with a brilliant display as he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to victory over the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.
The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and double Olympic gold medalist — known as “King James” — gave the couple a Cavaliers shirt marked Cambridge and another for the one-year-old Prince George.
“This very moment will be forever remembered and put up in my house. It’s all good and all smiles on this side,” James wrote on his Instagram page next to a photo with the royal couple.
James caused consternation amongst British royal watchers however, breaching protocol by putting a friendly arm around Kate in a post-match photo.
Jay-Z and Beyonce, who sat opposite them on the other side of the court during the game, chatted with the couple to deafening cheers from the crowd.
The couple have stayed at the Carlyle Hotel, where William’s mother Diana used to stay.
Their visit has drawn comparisons with the 1985 visit made by Charles and Diana, when the princess dazzled Americans by dancing with US president Ronald Reagan and Hollywood star John Travolta.