By Geoffrey Levy and Richard Kay
Well, well. Now we know that the Duchess of York wears pink pyjamas and snores ‘loudly’. She talks to photographs of her daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, and sits on the end of her bed (shared with stuffed animals) and pretends to talk to the imaginary white rabbit Harvey, star of the Jimmy Stewart film.
She also writes down, at least 25 times a day, a mantra that proclaims: ‘I love myself more than I ever imagined possible and others love me, too.’
As for her former husband, the Duke of York, Andrew remains ‘my prince . . . my perfect mate . . . Yes, I do love Andrew deeply.’
No doubt, Fergie does still love him. But it’s especially convenient since, as she admits in her latest memoir, Finding Sarah, published yesterday in America: ‘If I didn’t have Andrew I’d be homeless.’
The pair still share the Queen Mother’s former home in Windsor Great Park, Royal Lodge, which, make no mistake, is now Fergie’s permanent home as well as Andrew’s — 15 years after their civilised divorce.
One of her greatest pleasures there, she says, is walking in the woods ‘meditating on the bluebells’.
But let’s leave the woods and look more closely at some of the other claims in this extraordinary book — subtitled A Duchess’s Journey To Find Herself — which begins its self-serving with her picture on the cover, her face air-brushed to that of a twentysomething.
Fergie manages to plug an endless list of guru advisers and favourite destinations around the world. She also offers syrupy life-enhancing tips that she calls ‘Nuggets’ for anxious women like herself (‘See things differently; shine a light on those dark places in order for them to go away’).
So let’s shine a light on some of her claims. Her assertion, for example, that as Andrew’s wife, she not only ‘loved being a princess’ but was ‘very good at it’.
Not everyone will agree with this. Apart from the obvious fact that most people know her only as a duchess, not a princess, they will be reminded of her penchant for trotting around the globe with lovers during her marriage, on at least one occasion with small daughters in tow.
Others will recall her flagrant misuse of her royal status — the ludicrous and costly helicopter flying course, abandoned when she became ‘bored’ with the lessons; those vast piles of luggage for trips across the Channel; the interminable shopping expeditions — and how it added to the tremors already imperilling the monarchy over Charles and Diana.
Blind to reality, Sarah writes like a sullen child who still cannot understand why people called her names — in her case it was ‘Freebie Fergie’.
‘You might think that by marrying into the Royal Family my money worries should be over, that I would live solvently ever after in the bosom of one of the richest families in the world,’ she bleats.
‘The reality was something different. For I had married the second son and that made all the difference . . . in all our years together, his annual income never exceeded $50,000 (£31,000).’
What she fails to mention is that their marital home at the time was a gift from the Queen and, unlike millions of other young couples, they didn’t have a mortgage to pay.
‘I tried to save money where I could,’ says Sarah. ‘I found that some designers would allow me a deep discount in return for the publicity value of my wearing their fashions . . . I was merely trying to be frugal! I should have been called “Frugal Fergie”.’
That same Frugal Fergie spent herself into debts of £4 million in the Nineties and £5 million last year.
Astonishingly, she also claims to have been a wide-eyed innocent who was ‘seriously close to bankruptcy’ last year when she was filmed offering ‘access’ to Prince Andrew for £500,000 to an ‘Indian business tycoon’ who turned out to be an undercover journalist.
She says it wasn’t like that at all: ‘During our meeting (in his flat ‘in the Mayfair district of London’), I mentioned in passing that by doing business with me, he might get to meet Prince Andrew, because the Prince and I are a team. Under no circumstances did I offer to broker an introduction to my former husband, as it has been claimed.
‘I love Andrew to this day, as I did when I met and married him, and I would never, ever, sell him out or betray him.’
Here, she appears to be following the advice of one of her own Nuggets: ‘Accept that you cannot control every situation, past or present, and absolve yourself of unwarranted blame.’
Blame or not, most people would shrink from bringing out this personal testimony so soon after such a ghastly episode had humiliated not just herself and Andrew, but also the Queen. They would lay low until the scandal subsided.
Not Fergie. To her, the crisis simply opened up a business opportunity, one that she is now exploiting to the full.
Hence her Finding Sarah series on her new friend Oprah Winfrey’s U.S. television channel and this, the accompanying book in which she paints herself as a permanent victim of life, crying out for sympathy virtually on every page.
Even the flyleaf of the book describes how ‘her struggles with adversity have taught her that life’s lows can become a source of strength and courage’.
Who would ever imagine that these tear-stained words refer to a woman who has been given every possible advantage in life, including marriage to a prince and the styling Her Royal Highness — all of which she has only herself to blame for throwing away.
Blaming herself for her troubles, though, is something Fergie simply doesn’t do. While accepting that she is ‘flawed’, she inevitably lays the blame for this on someone else — surprisingly, her late mother Susan.
This emerged during counselling with a Texan psychologist Dr Phil McGraw, which was arranged for the television series. As she writes: ‘During one of our sessions, a shameful story tumbled out: how, as a child, I survived a traumatic and turbulent childhood growing up in Britain.
‘I told him how my mother used to spank me because I wouldn’t sit on my portable potty, or wouldn’t eat. A little vein would pop up on my forehead — my mother called it “the sign of the devil . . . I’m going to beat the devil out of you,” she’d say.’
And on one occasion, she tied Sarah, who was on the potty, to the leg of a table while lunching with friends in the dining room next door.
Dr Phil commented that ‘lashing a kid to a table . . . was not OK’.
To which Fergie says she replied: ‘Well, no wonder I’m so flawed.’
How very differently the Duchess of York described her mother — who was killed in a car crash in 1998 — in her first memoir, My Story, published in 1996, the year she and Andrew divorced.
She was, Sarah wrote then, ‘simply the most brilliant, zestful person I have ever met . . . Mum organised our ski trips abroad, and the family Christmases and the most elaborate, colourful birthday parties . . . She was the most popular mother in Hampshire, the type your friends would praise as “super cool”. Mum just made everything happen.’