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

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
 

‘They’ve seen the future – and got it for a song’: the unlikely history of Canary Wharf

Jack Brown
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee