Sarah Ferguson – “Fergie” – and Princess Diana (1961-1997) knew each other for six years before Fergie married Prince Andrew in 1986 and became a member of the Royal Family. The two women had first met on the polo circuit, as Diana’s husband Prince Charles was an avid player and Fergie’s father, Sir Ronald Ferguson, was the Prince’s polo manager.
Soon after meeting, Diana and Fergie (b. 1959) became fast friends. The timid and reserved Diana was intoxicated by Fergie’s loud and breezy energy:
“The two girls would burn up the telephone wires trading gossip and irreverent royal tidbits they could share with no one else.” (1)
Since Diana’s 1981 wedding to Charles, she had been starved of fun. Diana thought about how lovely it would be to have Fergie as a mate in the Royal Family. In June of 1985, Diana decided to play royal matchmaker and make it happen. She wangled an invitation for Fergie to not only attend the Queen’s Ascot Week house party at Windsor Castle , but managed also to get the boisterous redhead seated next to the Queen’s second son, the 25-year-old Prince Andrew, a very eligible bachelor and second in line for the throne.
Within an hour of meeting Fergie, Andrew was “chatting her up” and “flirtatiously coaxing a merry-eyed Ms. Ferguson to eat every one of the chocolate profiteroles [cream puffs] on her plate.” (1) A year later, Fergie and Andrew were married at Westminster Abbey as the Duke and Duchess of York. Di had gotten her ally in the family.
The Ascot Umbrella Caper – dubbed “the Brolly Folly” – drew public scorn. Woodrow Wyatt recorded in his memoirs that his wife saw Diana at Ascot
fooling about in the most childish manner, pulling people’s hair and tweaking them.”
The Sun reported the incident, referring to Fergie and Diana caustically as “silly, simpering girls.” It was the first of many desperate attempts Diana and Fergie made to “unstiffen” royal protocol.
Over time, the fallout from the bad press would affect Diana and Fergie differently. Diana would weather the public criticism better than Fergie. With Diana’s tragic death, charity work, and sad marriage, the public has been more forgiving of her wild days. The late Princess Diana is lovingly remembered today as the People’s Princess.
Fergie, however, at age 50, continues to court disaster with her impetuous ways and money woes. Matter of fact, with the latest bribery scandal and “Oprah” TV appearance, the Duchess of York is being referred to in the press as the Duchess of Disaster.
(1) Brown, Tina. The Diana Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 2007.
(2) “Births, Deaths, & Marriages.” Thirty Years of Majesty. Vol. 31, No. 5.