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

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Lead IOs Andriod Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Applic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Voices in Danger: The innocent journalist kidnapped by Russian separatists for 'spying'

Anne Mortensen
A Bengal tiger captured by a camera trap in Nepal  

Save the tiger: The success of the Bengal tiger in Nepal shows you can make a difference

Harvey Day
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried