The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in New York.
Mr Shand, a 62-year-old auctioneer, was enjoying a night out in the city after raising $1m for an elephant conservation charity at an auction attended by Princess Eugenie.
After an evening when he was said to have been in high spirits he fell and hit his head as he was lighting a cigarette outside the Gramercy Park Hotel.
He was taken to hospital and placed on life support but died 12 hours later.
Both Camilla, 66, and her husband and heir to the throne Prince Charles were said to be ‘devastated’.
And the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge broke off from a high profile tour of Australia to express their sadness at Mr Shand’s death.
Before embarking on a day of engagements in Canberra, the Australian capital, Prince William and Kate issued a statement saying: “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were saddened to learn this morning of the tragic death of Mark Shand.
“Their thoughts are with the Duchess of Cornwall and her family at this time.”
Camilla was famously close to her only brother – a man famed for his travel books and commitment to conservation.
A source close to the Duchess of Cornwall told the Daily Mail: “The Duchess is up at Birkhall [her and Charles’s Scottish retreat] with the Prince at the moment and to say that she is devastated is an understatement.
“They are a very close family and even if they didn’t see each other every week – as was often the case with Mark – were in constant contact.
“It is just the most tragic of accidents. No one can quite believe it has happened. He was always such a vital man, so full of life.”
Mr Shand was in New York to host a Sotheby’s auction of egg sculptures decorated by leading artists in aid of his Elephant Family charity and underprivileged children.
Mr Shand then attended an after-party at the exclusive Diamond Horseshoe club off Times Square, which features burlesque and vaudeville-style acts.
According to the Mail a fellow guest said he appeared to be ‘on top of the world’ after the successful fundraiser. Mr Shand had left the venue and was apparently on his way to bed at 3am when he tripped while trying to light a cigarette and hit his head outside the Rose Bar of the Gramercy Park Hotel.
He was taken to the nearby Bellevue Hospital and put on a life support machine, but died later.
A spokesman for Prince Charles’ London residence Clarence House said: “It is with deep sadness that we have to confirm that The Duchess of Cornwall’s brother, Mark Shand, has today passed away.
“Mr Shand died in hospital as a result of a serious head injury which he sustained during a fall.
“The Duchess, The Prince of Wales and all her family members are utterly devastated by this sudden and tragic loss.
“Mark Shand was a man of extraordinary vitality, a tireless campaigner and conservationist whose incredible work through the Elephant Family and beyond remained his focus right up until his death.”
Travel writer and auctioneer Mr Shand had set up charity Elephant Family in 2002 to help prevent the extinction of the endangered Asian elephant.
A spokesman for Elephant Family said: ‘Today we have lost the head of our family. Mark Shand was a true force for conservation.”