Terence Blacker: Fergie is not the villain of the piece

This ordinary, not particularly bright woman has been left to tout her semi-royalty

Share
Related Topics

As a former biographer of Fergie, the Duchess of York, I was sorry to read that the gutter press has trapped her into looking a bit of a chump. Some weasel with a hidden camera took advantage of Sarah's financial vulnerability and caught her offering access to Prince "Airmiles" Andrew in return for half a million pounds. The sting involved showing the Duchess a suitcase of dollar bills, a sight which excited her so much that she all but buried her face in the notes, going "Yabba-yabba-yabba".

That is flame-haired Fergie for you. She's a heart-on-the sleeve sort of girl. There is, in a strictly metaphorical sense, no side to her. The study I wrote with my friend Willie Donaldson revealed – exclusively, I think – that the Ferguson family motto is "Full steam ahead". A school report for General Attitude, written when she was 14, said it all: "Sarah is lively and full of 'go', if a little lacking in direction – but she must learn that liveliness should cease with the lights."

It was, of course, a spoof. Written under that name of Talbot Church, whose byline was The Man the Royals Trust", the book was called 101 Things You Didn't Know About the Royal Love Birds and listed tabloid-style "facts" about Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. The idea was to capture the tone of press coverage of royal stories which, then as now, was a bizarre mixture of snobbery, prurience and servility.

The joke backfired – or rather it worked so well that it ceased to be a joke. One of the big tabloid newspapers lifted stories from our book and presented them, unaccredited, as fact. I did several interviews as Talbot Church and discovered that, however idiotic the anecdotes (in one, we revealed that Prince Andrew was able to levitate over a gas-ring and feel no pain), there was a desperation to believe anything about the royals. One of our inventions is said to have found its way into the American writer Kitty Kelley's book about the royals.

Fun-loving Fergie, the palace prankster, is now the Duchess of Queer Street, but otherwise little has changed. A woman who from the start was clearly ill-equipped for public life has found herself in a deep financial hole and, with the help of an ever-eager press, has tried to escape with hopeless, inept dishonesty. It is the latest episode in an unhappy soap opera which has provided regular entertainment for the public since this unlucky woman first entered the wonderful world of Windsor. There were the charities and chat-shows, the weight thing, the children's books, the various woeful attempts to make money.

She is not the villain of the piece. The idea that a family owe a sort of loyalty to those who become part of it through marriage, even if that marriage ends, is one which Britain's first family has in this case regarded as old-fashioned and irrelevant. When the Duchess of York was released into the peculiarly nasty outside world, the Windsors might have ensured that she was given some kind of help and protection, not least from herself, but they did not. As a result, this ordinary, not particularly bright woman, has been left to tout her semi-royalty, her fragile celebrity status, in order to make a living.

As an example to the nation of family inadequacy, the attitude of those within the royal tent could hardly be bettered. First you allow an unworldly women to play a lead part in the Windsor extravaganza. Then, when that falls apart, you let her fend for herself in a hostile world.

It is truly hostile. There are few more nauseating sights than the hounds of the British press at work when the scent of royal blood is in the air. Like a fat girl who wants to be liked, the Duchess of York is the perfect victim for these playground bullies, as time and again she tries to ingratiate herself, never with any lasting success.

Poor old fun-loving Fergie. She may be naff, but there is something endearingly open about the way that she blunders onwards – at least when set in the context of her heartless former family and a seedy, sanctimonious press.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn