As she scurried through Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Two, Jessica Mulroney could have passed for Meghan Markle’s sophisticated if, slightly travel-weary, sister.
But few who saw this casually dressed mother juggling a trolley laden with luggage and three lively young children, late on Tuesday, would have guessed they were witnessing the arrival of a woman who, it could be argued, is one of the chief architects behind Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
Style guru, PR consultant and bridal expert, the 37-year-old Canadian mother-of-three is Meghan’s best friend, closest confidante, and an Instagram addict.
Mulroney and Meghan Markle pictured together in Toronto. The pair met in the city not long after Meghan arrived to film Suits
She is also credited by many as the brains behind Meghan’s transformation from television actress to polished princess in waiting.
It is largely thanks to their flourishing friendship that American-born Meghan, who relocated to Canada while filming the television series Suits, found herself moving through the kind of high-powered social circles that ultimately led her to Harry’s side.
Meghan and Jessica are now so close that it is sometimes hard to tell them apart. Dark-haired elegant — and extremely well-married — Jessica could indeed pass as Meghan Mark II.
Not for nothing is Mulroney known as the ‘Gwyneth Paltrow of Toronto’. Born into Canada’s wealthy Browns shoes dynasty, a family empire worth a reported £50 million, the privately educated heiress is married to Ben Mulroney, son of the former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney — and firm friends with the wife of the current one.
Jessica Mulroney arriving at Heathrow with husband Ben, the son of a former Canadian Prime Minister, and their three children
She apparently enjoys the kind of glamorous lifestyle that could have come straight out of the pages of a glossy magazine, and is regarded as the closest thing to royalty in that country.
Every facet of her enviable life is shared on the social media sharing site Instagram — from her three beautiful children, to her impressive exercise routine and elegant social life. And, of course, her friendship with Meghan.
Certainly, it is hard to see how Harry’s fiancee would have made it into the Canadian A-list without this female powerhouse.
They met in 2011, not long after Meghan arrived in Toronto where Suits was filmed.
The Mail understands that Meghan initially employed Mulroney as a fashion stylist after she shot to fame as ambitious paralegal Rachel Zane. The pair bonded over their love of yoga, dogs, expensive red wine, healthy eating, work-outs and charity work. What began as a professional relationship swiftly turned to a deep and lasting friendship.
And before long, Meghan had adopted Mulroney’s sophisticated socialite style.
It was under her guidance that, after meeting Prince Harry, Meghan swiftly ditched the racier ensembles she once delighted in wearing and embraced a sophisticated, pared-down chic.
Out went the leather skirts and plunging necklines. In came elegant, to-the-knee shift dresses and crisp white shirts.
Before too long, it was noted, the two women were wearing their long dark tresses in the same style and were often photographed sporting very similar outfits.
When Meghan moved to the UK in the run-up to her engagement to Harry, it was Mulroney who helped her put together a wardrobe of clothes fit for royalty.
Mulroney is an Instagram addict, which she uses to chronicle every facet of her enviable life
She was also behind the white wrap coat, green shift dress and nude heels that Meghan wore when she and Prince Harry announced their engagement in the gardens of Kensington Palace last autumn.
It goes without saying, too, that the dress Meghan wears on Saturday has had the Mulroney seal of approval at every stage of its creation.
She is thought to have flown to the UK from Canada at least three times in recent months to oversee key fittings. But, while Jessica is believed to have advised Meghan on everything from the dress to the flowers to the wedding lunch, her family’s invitation to Saturday’s Royal Wedding is about so much more than professional gratitude.
The fact that her children, seven-year-old twins Brian and John and five-year-old daughter Ivy, will be among the ten page boys and flower girls who will follow Meghan as she walks up the aisle at St George’s Chapel in Windsor at the weekend is testament to just how close the women have become.
At a time when members of her own family, especially her embarrassingly loquacious half-sister Samantha Markle, have let Meghan down over and again, it is Mulroney who has stuck faithfully by her side.
Meghan — ‘Aunty Meg’ to her friend’s three children — has described the Mulroney’s house in Toronto as her ‘home away from home’. It was here that the earliest whispers about her burgeoning romance with Harry were shared.
Here too, that the Prince and Meghan were able to spend time together away from the glare of publicity that would have undoubtedly blazed down upon them in the UK.
But the two women could not have come from more different backgrounds. Meghan’s humble roots lie in Los Angeles where her father Thomas, a former lighting director, was declared bankrupt in 2016.
Her mother Doria, who used to work for an airline, is now a yoga teacher and social worker. Her mother’s great-great-grandfather was a freed slave named Wisdom.
Jessica, meanwhile, was privately educated at an exclusive girls’ school before going to McGill University where she studied industrial relations and economics.
Meghan Markle and Jessica Mulroney on holiday in Italy in 2016. Meghan captioned the images she posted ‘La dolce vita’ and the trip even had its own special hashtag on Instagram, ‘MJxItaly’, so fans could follow every moment of their glamorous getaway
In 2007, she married television presenter Benedict Mulroney, whose father Brian was Canada’s Prime Minister from 1984 to 1993.
Much of Jessica and Meghan’s friendship has been played out on social media.
The early days of their friendship were recorded with plentiful snaps of a holiday in Italy they shared in the summer of 2016.
It was clear to anyone who saw the Instagram photographs of the women sunbathing in their bikinis on the deck of a boat, or sipping Negroni cocktails by the pool, that they were inseparable.
Meghan captioned the images she posted ‘La dolce vita’ and the trip even had its own special hashtag on Instagram, ‘MJxItaly’, so fans could follow every moment of their glamorous getaway.
But, crucially, it was also largely thanks to this friendship that Meghan began to rub shoulders with Canadian society’s big movers and shakers, among them 42-year-old Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, a flamboyant former TV presenter, who is now better known as the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Other friends of Mulroney’s who helped pave the road to Harry’s door include Markus Anderson, the suave party-loving business brains behind the opening of the Toronto branch of the ultra-fashionable private members club Soho House — of which Harry is also a member.
If ever a sign was needed that Meghan had ‘made it’ in Canadian high society, it was surely the sight of her at the club’s pretty rooftop bar with Sophie Trudeau and Mulroney on a girls’ night out together in 2016.
She and Harry are said to have been set up on a blind date by a mutual friend — whose identity they won’t reveal.
Before news of the royal romance broke, Jessica and husband Ben, 41, had Meghan and Harry over for several cosy, discreet dinners where they could spend precious time together away from prying eyes.
At the closing ceremony of Prince Harry’s Invictus Games last October, where he was seen kissing Meghan in public for the first time, Jessica was one of just two friends selected to join the actress in her private box.
It is largely thanks to this friendship that Meghan began to rub shoulders with Canadian society’s big movers and shakers, putting her on the road to meeting Prince Harry
Once Meghan had been catapulted into the social stratosphere, Mulroney happily slipped into the role of Girl Friday, quietly advising and supporting her — but always remaining tight-lipped.
The two women enjoyed a foretaste of royal bridal dress planning when Meghan turned to Mulroney for help choosing a wedding gown for her Suits character Rachel Zane — who was stood up at the altar by her on-screen fiance, Mike Ross.
On that occasion, Meghan chose an Anne Barge Versailles dress from the Canadian bridal boutique which Mulroney represents as a PR.
Mulroney posted a photograph of her friend wearing the dress with the the social media hashtag ‘princess goals’.
Meghan, meanwhile, apparently returned the favour by name-dropping her friend during an interview about her on-screen wedding.
‘I went through all the options with my dear friend Jessica Mulroney of Kleinfeld Hudson’s Bay in Canada,’ Meghan said.
‘I put this one on and it just screamed “Rachel”. It is classic and fairytale and the culmination of everything she’s been waiting for.’
As a bridal expert, of course, Mulroney’s closeness to Meghan and the royals will do her no professional harm.
Jessica has, since 2013, done PR for the aforementioned Kleinfeld Bridal, an upmarket Toronto boutique, which as well as selling dreamy designer dresses worth thousands of pounds, also offers £200 lacy lingerie and £300 crystal-embellished headbands.
In February this year, she set up an Instagram account devoted to ‘all things bridal and style’, on which she showcases her ideas for wedding day fashion, food and exotic honeymoons. She also posts photographs of grateful brides she’s rehearsed and styled for their big day.
Jessica Mulroney and her children. Meghan is ‘Aunty Meg’ to the children and has described the Mulroney’s house in Toronto as her ‘home away from home’
She’s also guest editor of Wedding Vacations magazine and makes regular appearances as a bridal expert on Canadian daytime TV.
Given the attention Meghan’s clothing choices already get, a friend like Mulroney is valuable indeed. She rode to Meghan’s rescue when she was agonising over what to wear to Pippa Middleton’s wedding a year ago.
Palace insiders say she wore a simple black dress for the evening do, which Jessica — demonstrating a keen awareness of royal protocol — recommended only after finding out the details of Kate’s outfit, thereby avoiding a clash with her future sister-in-law.
‘Jessica is smart enough to know that, as well as making sure Meghan looks her best, they also need to be mindful about what Kate is wearing,’ a source said at the time.
Yesterday afternoon, Jessica was spotted hand in hand with her five-year-old daughter Ivy, doing some last-minute shopping in Marks & Spencer close to Kensington Palace where the family are thought to be staying.
So how will you spot her among the congregation on Saturday? Easy. Look out for a woman with Meghan’s shiny dark hair, dewy skin and impeccable dress sense. That’ll be her.