Sarah Ferguson, the polemic Duchess of York, writes a book inspired by her life
For many royal chroniclers, Sarah Ferguson has had the honor of being the daughter-in-law whom the Queen Elizabeth II of England dislikes the most. The wife of Prince Andrew, from 1986 to 1996, regularly embarrassed the royal family with controversial public appearances.
Now, a much milder Duchess who is about to become a grandmother, announces that she is writing a historical novel with "many parallels from my life" in it. "Set in the Victorian era, the book is about daring to follow your heart against the odds," she says on Twitter. And that, reader, she did throughout her life.
(Image from Twitter @margueritekaye who is the co-author of Ferguson's novel)
Although Sarah Ferguson is connected to the British Royal Family by marriage and the births of her children, the crown has never looked kindly on this young, working-class girl becoming a princess. "When I was 18, I cleaned student bathrooms and dorms," Sarah said on Swedish television's Skavlan. "I was also a waitress in a strudel shop."
Despite criticism, Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew got married at Westminster Abbey in London on July 23, 1986. As Andrew was the Duke of York, Sarah now became the Duchess of York.
After the wedding, attended by nearly 2,000 guests, the couple performed an act of rebellion against the crown. "I remember that we were told not to kiss on the balcony," Ferguson recalls in the documentary 'Finding Sarah.' "So we did it deliberately. We were very much in love".
During the early years of Sarah Ferguson and Andrew's marriage, the Duchess soon began to feel the harassment of the media. When Meghan Markle endured similar harassment in 2019, Ferguson told Vogue Arabia that "she's being treated like me. I really think I can identify with her."
"I'm not much of a counselor, really, but I've been in Meghan's shoes and I think I still am," she continued. "It's sad and exhausting. I abhor harassment and feel very sorry for the pain that must be going on, because I've been through it myself."
Sarah Ferguson and Andrew from England became first-time parents on August 8, 1988. Their little girl came into the world as Beatrice of York.
Two years later, the couple's happiness seemed to have no limits because a second, healthy girl was born: Eugenie of York. Her birthday was March 23, 1990.
However, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson appeared to be unhappy together, because their marriage ended in 1992. That year, the official announcement came of the separation between Ferguson and the Prince. It would take until 1996 for the divorce to materialize.
HELLO reported at the time that Sarah was accused by the Crown of "leaking the [divorce] news 24 hours earlier to the Daily Mail." In addition, they pointed to "photographs of Sarah with Texas billionaire Steve Wyatt." There were rumours about the longstanding "hostile treatment" endured by Ferguson "because of her reluctance to conform to Crown standards."
In 1996, the divorce of Andrew and his controversial wife was official. Ferguson lost her 'Royal Highness' title, but she was still allowed to call herself Duchess. "The knives are out for Fergie," BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Reynolds reported.
According to Reynolds, the "knives" phrase was overheard in a private conversation with Queen Elizabeth II's then press secretary, Mr. Charles Anson. "Rarely have I heard the palace staff talk like this about anyone. Sarah Ferguson is unable to appear at public functions as a member of the Royal Family."
In the midst of this very tense climate, the Duke and Duchess of York began to reappear together in public. The former couple always maintained a very good relationship, which of course triggered rumors of a reconciliation. But they never amounted to anything more than rumors.
Looking back on Sarah Ferguson's time in the royal family, as well as the years after the divorce, journalists have argued that she often embarrassed herself and the people close to her. BBC journalist Rajesh Mirchandani summarizes Sarah Ferguson's reputation as follows: "Her efforts to help others have always been overshadowed by her attempts to help herself."
The BBC particularly pointed to the supposed exploitation of her position as Prince Andrew's wife. "Fergie, as she is called, has been criticized for taking countless days off and selling her family photos to a magazine."
In the 1990s, after the divorce, Ferguson had to move to a smaller house due to serious financial problems. She became the face of different brands in order to make ends meet. Ferguson even tried to break through in the entertainment world, for example by making a guest appearance in 'Friends'.
While she was going nearly bankrupt in 2010, she had to deal with the constant factor of negative treatment by the British press. Some sharp-tongued journalists called her 'Duchess of Pork.'
And more scandal was added to the mix. In 2010, News of the World published a video of Sarah Ferguson accepting a briefcase with 32,000 euros (an advance of a larger amount) in exchange for a backdoor appointment of a journalist with her ex-husband Andrew. After it all became public, Ferguson apologized and blamed her mistake on "financial problems."
In 2016, The Guardian included Sarah Ferguson's name in the so-called Panama Papers. It alluded to a possible relationship between the Duchess of York and the controversial law firm Mossack Fonseca.
In 2019, after the involvement of Prince Andrew in the Epstein scandal, Sarah Ferguson once again sought the spotlights. She spoke out in support of the prince. "I support him deeply and am proud of this great man," the Duchess of York declared, after journalists and law enforcement officials had questioned him about alleged sexual misconduct with minors.
"Andrew is a man of principle," she said, "who dares to face adversity and stand firm with his sense of honor and truth." For Sarah Ferguson, her ex-partner continued to be "family." To see him suffer, she stated, was "really painful."
"The last six months have been difficult for the girls and me," Ferguson revealed in December 2019. Prince Andrew had laid down his official tasks as a member of the Royal House.
The problems did not end with the turning of the calendar year. In 2020, Andrew faced more accusations and COVID-19 hindered their eldest daughter Beatrice from having a big royal wedding.
The coming year should be a better one for the Duke and Duchess of York. Eugenie is expecting a child, so they will become grandparents. What's more, Eugenie and her husband Jack have moved into the Royal Lodge to have the baby there.
"The York family home, which Andrew and Fergie still share despite being divorced, has 30 rooms and a huge amount of land," the newspaper Mirror says, "so there is more than enough room for them all to live together." Hopefully, Ferguson will have enough peace and quiet to finish her romance novel in time.