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Meghan’s Jewish best friend goes global

Her sons made front-page news as they held the new Duchess of Sussex's veil last weekend, but what else do we know about Meghan Markle's best friend?

    Jessica Mulroney and her children (nearly) stole the show from Meghan Markle at her wedding to Prince Harry (Photo: Getty)
    Jessica Mulroney and her children (nearly) stole the show from Meghan Markle at her wedding to Prince Harry (Photo: Getty)

    It’s about 3,200 miles from Windsor Castle to a downtown Montreal shoe shop. But Saturday’s royal nuptials brought them a little closer.

    Three children in the wedding party belonged to Jessica Mulroney — nee Brownstein — scion of the Quebec Jewish family behind Browns, one of Canada’s largest footwear chains.

    Married to dashing Canuck television presenter Ben Mulroney, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Jessica saw her twin boys, Brian and John, as page boys in the ceremony. Ivy, their four-year-old sister, was one of the bridesmaids.

    So who is Jessica Mulroney?

    A 38-year-old fashion stylist and frequent chat-show guest, Ms Mulroney was born in Montreal to Stephen and Veronica Brownstein, clothing manufacturers whose success helped buy a pile in the exclusive enclave of Westmount.

    Her extended family also controls one of Canada’s retail empires. Great-uncle Benjamin Brownstein founded Browns Shoes as a single Montreal shop in 1940. Browns now operates 60 stores nationwide; second cousin Michael Brownstein is its chief executive.

    While Jessica worked for her father for a short time, she and sister Elizabeth launched a sleepwear and lingerie distribution company on their own, winning Canadian rights to brands La Perla and Cosabella, according to an adoring July 2017 Toronto Life magazine profile.

    The Mulroneys and Brownsteins were neighbours in Westmount, and Ben and Jessica met as children. After a long courtship and short engagement, the pair had their own “royal” wedding in 2008; in a ceremony blessed by a rabbi and priest at Montreal’s neo-Gothic St Patrick’s Basilica, guests including Margaret Thatcher and George HW Bush watched the couple recite vows they wrote themselves.

    Meghan and her pageboys Brian and John Mulroney (Photo: Getty)
    Meghan and her pageboys Brian and John Mulroney (Photo: Getty)
    The couple now live in Toronto, where they command front-page social status. She is regarded as a “social-media juggernaut” and they have been dubbed “Toronto’s most polished power couple”.

    A photo in the Toronto Life piece depicted Jessica and Ben at a swanky Toronto restaurant with another familiar couple — Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister and First Lady. Cementing that relationship, Ms Gregoire-Trudeau turned to Ms Mulroney as her style advisor for her husband’s 2015 inauguration.

    Around the same time, Ms Mulroney became “great friends” with an actress named Meghan Markle, who had moved to the city for her recurring role in TV legal drama Suits.

    Montreal is my birthplace, and Toronto is now a home base. But none of my contacts, many of whom know the Brownsteins, would comment for this piece.

    Only Antoinette DiCarlo, a renowned Montreal couturier who designed Ms Mulroney’s now-renowned cobalt-blue dress for the wedding, would go on the record about her client.

    “Jessica was lovely to work with and the entire process was completely organic,” Ms Di Carlo told me. “She is an incredible ambassador for the Canadian fashion industry.”

    Expect to read more about her as Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, settles into her new role.

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