Sarah Ferguson: “I was the most persecuted woman in the royal family”

Sarah Ferguson: “I was the most persecuted woman in the royal family”, There is this question that we ask ourselves, before meeting it: what are we going to call it. Your Highness ? Reserved for princesses. Simply Sarah? “My God, no”, whisper our entourage … After checking on the side of the experts, “Your Grace” seem the most appropriate terms. “Just call her ‘Duchess’!”, Finally slices her personal assistant when we arrive in the suite of the Meurice hotel, where she stays overnight in Paris. Flamboyant redhead, piercing blue eyes, posh accent, Sarah Ferguson is just as you imagine her. She stares straight in the eye, shakes hands tightly, moves an armchair alone in the room. “I can still carry furniture,” she told a distraught press secretary. Don’t stick the grandmother’s label on me, don’t stick any labels on me. ”

TO 62 years, she publishes her promising first novel, In the Conquest of Her Freedom, in which she elegantly embroiders the story of one of her ancestors, Lady Margaret, forced to marry a man she do not like in noble England of the nineteenth century. Against all odds, her grandmother left for America in search of a new meaning in her life, and real love. 62 pages of a typically British epic, not so far from the romantic upheavals of Jane Austen.

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In video, who is Eugenie of York? Banned from the “firm” Margaret looks like Sarah, or vice versa. The same red hair, the same idyllic childhood among the horses and the lands of Scotland , the same furious desire for freedom. “I always believed that anything was possible, says Sarah Ferguson to us in front of her cup of tea. In my heritage, there is this DNA of the reed which does not bend. I may have been the most persecuted woman in royal family history, but I’m still here. ” She says this as if she wanted to defuse the bomb. Way of saying: “What, you weren’t going to ask me about my years of media hell?”

Yes, obviously. How not to associate “Fergie” with the Windsor clan, its glamor and its scandals. In 1985, the one who fits perfectly into the royal circle (Ferguson father was the polo manager of prince Charles ) falls under the spell of Prince Andrew, third child of Elizabeth II , on the sidelines of the Royal Ascot horse races. The story goes fast and Andrew makes his request in February 1985, in Scotland, where the couple are said to have shared their very first kiss. Buckingham Palace formalizes a month later. On D-Day , the bride is in white, and the train of her dress is 5 meters long. “As a teenager, I dreamed of being an Olympic champion in show jumping, not of becoming a princess,” she admits to us. And yet, the happiest day of my life remains this 17 July 1986, that moment when I came to the end of the endless alley of Westminster Abbey alongside my sailor ( Andrew served in the Royal Navy at the time, Editor’s note ), my prince, my handsome husband. ”

Sarah Ferguson

Vincent Ferrané

They give birth to the Princess Beatrice two years later, in 1988, then to Princess Eugenie in 1988. Behind the feigned happiness of garden parties , the naval career of Prince Andrew limits their reunion to forty days a year, and the couple are quickly in trouble. Under the gold of the Crown, it is whispered that Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York by marriage, is hanging out with other men. In the summer 1990, the Yorks are on vacation in the royal residence at Balmoral , Scotland, when compromising photos were published in the Daily Mirror. The whole world is discovering Fergie topless by a swimming pool in the south of France, having her toes gently nibbled by her financial advisor John Bryan. That morning, she does not go through the breakfast box and takes the first flight – commercial. By the queen, she was banned from the “Firm”, the encrypted name of the Windsor. The Prince Philip (the queen’s husband who died in April), for his part, is loath to even see him.

Alongside Andrew It’s the start of the media relentlessness, and 1992 the “annus horribilis” of Elizabeth II, who saw the same year two other of her children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne , parting with their spouses, Lady Diana and Mark Phillips. Sarah Ferguson will not be rehabilitated until sixteen years later by the sovereign (and against the advice of the prince consort), on the occasion of the marriage of prince Harry with Meghan Markle . During all these years of exclusion, the Duke and Duchess of York have unexpectedly remained very close. They still live together today, she says, at Royal Lodge, Andrew’s residence in Windsor Park, to the point that some of the British media are convinced that they will one day remarry. To listen to: the editorial podcast loved her and still love her today, she confides. I stay by his side. Because I believe in him. He’s a good man, ”she adds with a shrewd wink. Cold sweats in his communicators. Sarah Ferguson has just brought up the forbidden subject herself, the one on which her team kindly but firmly asked us not to ask a question: Andrew. Since 2019, the Duke of York is suspected of being involved in the affair Jeffrey Epstein . The billionaire financier, found dead in prison in August of the same year, was accused of sex crimes committed against teenage girls during parties organized for prestigious guests. Among these, the queen’s favorite son is the target of a complaint for “sexual assault”, which should be investigated late 2022 in a civil court in New York.

According to the latest news, he is not being prosecuted in criminal proceedings and denies these facts which allegedly took place between 1993 and 2002. In total control, Sarah Ferguson does not say more. She is undoubtedly attached to the Queen’s newly regained grace, and no longer wants to be away from her two daughters. If the princess Eugenie got married with great fanfare in October 2002, her eldest, Princess Beatrice, was satisfied with a union in the shadow of radars in 2020, while her father was suffering from the full hype.

Her novel, therapy “ My daughters are my priority, I am always listening, I never miss a call, ”insists Sarah Ferguson, who nicknamed their trio“ the tripod ”. Just before the start of the interview, Beatrice, mom since September , moreover called her to ask her if she could come and spend a few days with her. “If there’s something I’ve done well in my life, it’s being a mother,” she says. Probably because I haven’t really had one myself. One day I will write a book about my mother, who ran away with an Argentinian polo player when I had years… A crazy story… ”

This abandonment from childhood added to attacks by the press, once an adult, pushed her to undergo therapy for twenty-four years. She gladly discusses her ” major mental health problems ”with the British press. Her therapy continued through her novel, she tells us, which she wrote during the confinement induced by the pandemic . “I took the time to live more slowly, to listen to the birds sing. My heroine, Margaret, made me stronger and more confident. ” From this work, she now dreams of making a film. She tells us that she is in talks with a Parisian production company. “I want the film to be made in France, because French cinema is what is done best today. In the role of Margaret, I thought of Léa Seydoux ( she pronounces “Léa Sowdou “, Editor’s note ). What do you think ?”

Sarah Ferguson

Vincent Ferrané

“Deeply nomadic” This new project will take shape on the sidelines of all those who are already agitating the insatiable Duchess. During the thirty years, of which we have sometimes remembered only the worst, Sarah Ferguson has not stopped living. She posted 23 children’s books , launched its lifestyle line, The Duchess Collection , part of the proceeds of which goes to charity. She created the organization Children in Crisis en 1993, dedicated to the education of the youngest around the world, and founded the Sarah’s Trust in 2019, devoted more widely to all those who might need it. “At the moment, it is the situation of Belarusian migrants, and in particular mothers, subjected to extreme cold with their youngs, which is holding my full attention.”

Daily , she continues to support her husband as best she can, while keeping to her fifteen minutes of reading on her YouTube channel – “My listeners are 5 years old on average”, she indicates -, and to her training athletic. “I don’t kill myself at the gym with a Lycra, don’t worry. I go up and down the stairs for an hour, and I do some push-ups as well. ” As soon as her schedule allows, she goes to see her girls in London. When the pandemic is finally over, she will return to see the rest of the world. “I live in Windsor, but I am deeply nomadic, I live on cloud nine,” she said suddenly poetically, breaking with her latent hyperactivity. Yesterday, when I arrived at the Gare du Nord, I felt a crazy feeling of freedom. ”

In the quest for freedom , by Sarah Ferguson, Éditions HarperCollins France et Harlequin, 1875 p. , 11 €.