Inside The Carlyle: the hyper-private New York hotel hosting Harry and Meghan

Starting at $800 a night, the hotel has long been a go-to for the elite and was one of Princess Diana’s favourite Manhattan haunts

The Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. Photo:
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Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have made their first public trip to New York together, and their first major outing since their daughter, Lilibet, was born in June. The couple were in the city to visit the UN headquarters and made an appearance at the Global Citizen festival on Saturday.

The pair are staying at The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel on Madison Avenue. This distinguished hotel in the heart of Manhattan puts the royal couple in good company as it's long been a favoured place to stay with discernible jet-setters.

Built in 1930, the hotel has a reputation as being something of a city hideaway for celebrities, politicians, royalty and the rich and famous. Named in honour of Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle, the five-star skyscraper on the Upper East Side is only one block from Central Park, where the Global Citizen event took place.

As well as playing host to Prince Harry and Meghan this weekend, The Carlyle was one of Princess Diana’s favourite places to stay when visiting New York.

In fact, the hotel has received several members of Prince Harry’s family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who stayed there in 2014, and Prince Charles, who first visited in the 90s. And it's not only the British monarchs who have a penchant for The Carlyle’s storied hallways – kings and queens from Denmark, Greece, Spain and Sweden have also checked in.

Towering some 35-storeys above the city, The Carlyle has dominated the corner of Madison Avenue and 6th Street for 91 years. During this time, an endless procession of high-profile guests have stayed at the hotel, grateful for the levels of privacy they are constantly assured.

The New York Times previously dubbed the hotel “The Palace of Secrets” and, according to the hotel's website, “every American president since Truman” has visited it. President Kennedy owned an apartment on the 34th floor, reported The New York Post.

The party’s always at The Carlyle, always
Naomi Campbell

Inside the hotel there are 189 rooms and suites, the pinnacle of which is the 1,800 square-foot Royal Suite on the 22nd floor. This is where Princess Diana previously stayed but, according to reports from Harry and Meghan's trip, is not where the Sussex's are laying their heads.

All of the tower rooms come with views of Central Park and several of the suites have their own grand pianos. Each has also been inspired by the hotel's predominant Art Deco style, and has been reimagined as a contemporary interpretation of the elegance first achieved by Dorothy Draper, one of the "First Ladies of Interior Design", when she set out the initial plans for the hotel's image.

However, well-heeled travellers aren't necessarily coming for the sophisticated design. It's the sense of privacy assured when staying at The Carlyle that has earned this landmark its reputation.

“Whatever happens here, stays here,” says Tommy, a former bartender at hotel, in a trailer for Always at The Carlyle, a 2018 documentary that brought to life some of the building’s untold stories.

“They come here because it’s discrete,” says Radha Arora from Rosewood Hotels.

As well as featuring employees who worked at the hotel over the years, Matthew Miele’s film also stars George Clooney, Vera Wang, Tommy Lee Jones, Roger Federer and Anthony Bourdain, who have all spent time at the hotel.

“You check in to The Carlyle hotel on Madison Avenue, and it’s magical,” the late Broadway actor Elaine Stritch tells the camera, while supermodel Naomi Campbell is recorded saying that “the party’s always at The Carlyle, always.”

During their stay at the property, Prince Harry and Meghan were spotted at Bemelmans Bar, which is something of a New York institution in its own right.

Adorned with masterpiece murals by Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books, the piano bar is also where Wes Anderson found whimsical inspiration for his 2014 hit film The Grand Budapest Hotel.

With nightly live music, the bar was famous for never taking reservations – no matter who the guests were, until today. The Covid-19 pandemic had the hotel taking reservations in Bemelmans for the first time in its almost 75-year history in April.

Elsewhere, the hotel's Cafe, Carlyle, is the home of jazz and cabaret and has played host to pianist Bobby Short, Hollywood director Woody Allen and singers Eartha Kitt and Judy Collins.

It's not surprising that a stay at The Carlyle does not come cheap – rates in the smallest rooms start from $800 per night, rising to more than $1,300 at the weekend.

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Updated: September 26, 2021, 1:30 PM