Meghan Markle is good for business.
Just ask anyone who works at one of the fashion brands the Duchess of Sussex has worn. Strathberry, Everlane, The Line: all of them on the map, with considerably boosted bottom lines, courtesy of Meghan’s magic touch.
And just ask the team at Cliveden House, the stately 47-room luxury hotel in Taplow, Berkshire, where Meghan spent her last night of semi-singlewomanhood before shimmying into her Givenchy gown and walking down the aisle towards her Prince Charming at Windsor’s St George Chapel, a mere 23 minutes from the hotel in a zippy Rolls Royce.
Over a pair of potent Cliveden 66 cocktails (Veuve Cliquot, Belvedere vodka, Grand Marnier and a light dusting of edible gold leaf), deputy general manager Andre Bremmerman tells me that, thanks to Meghan, the hotel has had its busiest summer yet. They’re also fully booked for weddings in 2019, the most expensive of which can run up a bill in the eyewatering region of $1.7 million. This grand mansion, once the home of Waldorf and Nancy Astor (the first woman in the UK to enter parliament as an MP), and later the site of the scandalous Profumo affair as detailed in season two of The Crown is having another moment in the sun courtesy of the ‘Meghan effect’’.
Despite having once hosted JFK, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, Meghan is without a doubt Cliveden’s most famous guest. No-one knows exactly which suite Meghan or her mother Doria stayed in on the night of May 18, but I’ll be sleeping in a sprawling room on the top floor, decorated in shades of burgundy and millennial pink and with a view across Cliveden’s enviable grounds right down to the banks of the river Thames.
The room is bigger than my apartment, hell, the bathroom is bigger than my apartment, and every corner of it is lived-in and cosy. Little touches, like a mezzanine Butler’s Pantry where freshly-baked flapjacks are left out in the afternoon for guests and the cafetiere of steaming hot coffee delivered to my room in the morning, make it feel like I’m the guest in a private house rather than a five-star hotel.
This is exactly the point: everything at Cliveden is designed with laidback luxury in mind. There’s the wood-panelled club room full of squishy armchairs, where guests can take tea or something stronger in the afternoon. The breakfast buffet in the morning is a groaning serve-yourself situation reminiscent of the breakfast scenes in Downton Abbey and Gosford Park. And then a short stroll around to the left of the house, past the newly-renovated casual restaurant Astor Grill and you’ll find yourself in the award-winning Cliveden spa, boasting two pools (indoor and outdoor, open even in the middle of London’s frosty winter) and a series of treatment rooms.
Now, here’s where I begin to understand why Meghan might have chosen Cliveden for a relaxing pre-wedding evening. After a luxurious full body scrub and massage, I recline on a deckchair wrapped in a fluffy robe and drinking a detox tea, my every breath whispering: Namaste. This is Meghan’s kind of place.
Reader, I won’t bore you with the rest of my indulgent night at Cliveden. Suffice to say it involves duck and dessert wine in the Andre Garrett fine dining restaurant and afterwards a disgustingly good sleep in that big hotel bed. By midday the next day I’m dreading having to leave.
Unlike Meghan, I won’t be departing in a Rolls Royce come to whisk me away to Windsor Castle and the love of my life, I’ll be on a train back to my draughty North London flat. While I soak up the last of the Cliveden atmosphere by the roaring fire in the great hall, my housemate sends me a decidedly unglamorous text message: “Hannah, we need loo roll.”