Kate Moss, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett and Cara Delevingne are among the glamorous guests at the the event for The Royal Marsden cancer hospital
By By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter
When he was given permission by the Queen to use Windsor Castle for a gala dinner, the Duke of Cambridge compiled a guest list which included Kate Moss, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett and Cara Delevingne.
One woman who was not attending, however, was the Duchess of Cambridge, so it’s to be hoped she isn’t the jealous type.
The Duke was hosting the event for The Royal Marsden cancer hospital without the Duchess, part of a new strategy by the couple to divide their duties so they can be present at more events.
While the Duchess stayed in with Prince George, the Duke greeted a dazzling array of stars, who also included Benedict Cumberbatch, Emma Watson, Mario Testino and Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael.
For the staff of The Royal Marsden, however, there was only one star of the show – the fashion designer Ralph Lauren, who announced he is funding an entire new breast cancer centre at the hospital.
Lauren, 74, and his wife of 50 years, Ricky, made a rare foray away from their home in the US to attend the event and launch the Ralph Lauren Breast Cancer Centre.
Lauren, who had a benign brain tumour removed 25 years ago and lost his close friend Nina Hyde to breast cancer in 1990, has donated millions to cancer research around the world over the past 20 years.
He already donates proceeds from UK sales of his Pink Pony range of clothing and accessories to The Royal Marsden, of which the Duke of Cambridge is President.
In the castle’s Grand Reception Room the Duke was introduced to Mr and Mrs Lauren, and immediately apologised for the Duchess’s absence.
He said: “I’m sorry my wife’s not here, you probably would far rather you saw my wife.”
“Not at all,” said Mr Lauren.
The Duke also told the designer: “It’s a wonderful thing you’re backing, it will be another great addition to the hospital.”
When Mr Lauren said he had been looking at several possible projects, the Duke smiled and said: “You’ve chosen wisely.”
After meeting Mr and Mrs Lauren and The Royal Marsden’s chairman Ian Molson and chief executive Cally Palmer, the Duke met Emeli Sande before making his way into the Waterloo Chamber, where the 220 guests were sipping champagne and eating canapés.
One of the first people he spoke to was Benedict Cumberbatch, who later said he felt “guilty” for spending so much time chatting to him.
He said: “He is just a stand-up guy. I completely forgot to ask him how he got over his jet lag from his trip to Australia because I was there at the same time and I saw all the commotion when he went to Sydney Opera House.
“Hopefully tonight will raise awareness of the work of The Royal Marsden – that’s what we’re here for. Cancer isn’t a disease that needs much awareness but it does need continued funding for research.”
The Duke also chatted to Laura Carmichael, one of three Downton Abbey stars at the event, together with Allen Leech, who plays former chauffeur Tom Branson, and Lily James, who plays Lady Rose MacClare.
Miss Carmichael, whose mother is a radiographer, said: “We’re halfway through shooting the next series of Downton Abbey but the Duke didn’t ask for any plot details. He is probably waiting until it comes out in September.”
Standing next to Miss Carmichael was Helena Bonham Carter, who said: “The Duke and I met before, along with the Duchess, before they were married, when I was staying on Mustique. I got very drunk at one point and I was determined to ask him to be a godfather to my daughter. He quite wisely said no.
“I admire him. He has got the same grace as both his parents.”
The guests then made their way into the Great Hall, where they took their places at two long rows of tables. The Duke sat between Ralph Lauren’s wife Ricky and Mr Molson. Opposite him was Ralph Lauren, who had Cate Blanchett on his left and Lady Bamford, wife of the JCB founder Lord Bamford, to his right.
Also seated near the Duke were David and Julia Koch, the American billionaire philanthropists.
Before the meal the Duke made a speech in which he spoke of the “brilliant work” of the hospital and thanked Ralph Lauren for his “incredibly generous” decision to fund the new breast cancer research unit at the hospital’s Chelsea site.
He added: “I am enormously grateful to Ralph Lauren for his generosity, and to all of you who so kindly support the hospital. You should know that what you do saves lives and gives hope to thousands of people.”
Lauren was introduced to the staff of The Royal Marsden by Alexandra Shulman, the editor-in-chief of Vogue and a trustee of the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, who also helped draw up list of the 200 guests at the dinner.
The Royal Marsden is the oldest, largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe, with a history of ground-breaking research.
The Duke became President of the hospital in 2007, taking up a position once held by his mother. He has also watched surgical procedures in one of its operating theatres.
The Duke also supports the work of the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, a member of the Charities Forum of which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are patrons.
Officially, the dinner is being held “to celebrate the innovative work of The Royal Marsden and bring together the Hospital’s world-leading consultants, supporters and philanthropists”.
Unofficially, it is a chance to dazzle wealthy supporters with an impressive array of royalty and celebrity to ensure their continued generosity.
The A-list guests are all friends or supporters of the hospital, and after dinner they were looking forward to a performance by the award-winning singer Emeli Sande.