In defence of (the possibly drunk) Fergie -

In defence of (the possibly drunk) Fergie

Having been seen on worldwide TV scooping up an alleged $40,000, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife has found herself in muck


Photo by Picture Perfect / Rex Features

I’d like to say a word in favour of poor old Fergie, by which I do mean the relatively poor and relatively old (50) Sarah, duchess of York. She just got caught  accepting money from a reporter in exchange for an intro to her ex-husband Prince Andrew, now the unpaid special ambassador for British trade and industry. In saying anything favourable, I can hear the (imaginary) voice of Nancy Grace: “Barbara, is anyone here thinking of those children?” And yes, having a mummy like Sarah can be embarrassing, and while princesses Beatrice and Eugenie are as devoted to their mother as she is to them, mummy filmed selling meetings with daddy must be unnerving.

Having now been seen on worldwide television scooping up an alleged $40,000, Sarah Ferguson is in muck. Mazher Mahmood, a specialist in entrapment journalism, whose earlier stings included Prince Andrew’s sister-in-law the countess of Wessex, passed himself off again as a wealthy businessman keen on making a royal connection. His down payment was on Sarah’s alleged asking price of $750,000. (Sorry about the repetition. We know it’s alleged and that the duchess has apologized for her alleged crime but allegedly it’s the rule around here to keep repeating it.)

Sarah Ferguson would retort that the very reason she was with a relative stranger (in this story all things are relative including its value) in a Mayfair flat last week—poorly furnished I thought for a Mayfair flat and a dead giveaway really that it was a set-up—with a bottle of wine and News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood, was her children. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and HRH princesses need lotsa frocks. Sarah’s $22,500 annual divorce allowance from Prince Andrew can’t buy very many dresses even with discounts and comps, not to mention that with Sarah’s fluctuating weight, they can’t really share outfits.

I couldn’t see on the film how much of the wine had been drunk, but from the sound of Sarah’s voice she was three sheets to the wind. Sarah downs her drinks better than holds them but no matter—on her social circuit no one drives when drunk because they have chauffeurs and no one is bored with drunken drivel because that’s the lingua franca. I speak from experience: hours of agony as a non-drinker myself stranded at those dinners talking to people whose alcohol blood count would kill any Breathalyzer and did kill any intelligent conversation. Those of you who drink, just about everyone it seems, have no idea how awful it is to go through life stone cold sober, though I can well imagine how equally boring it makes me to you. The only thing worse is the sick headache one drink gives me.

Enter Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch loathes royalty and I often suspected he loathes Brits in general. I’m not sure what it stems from but Aussies would be hard-pressed to forget the battle of Gallipoli, the ill-conceived (as a British commission later dubbed it) First World War battle with the Turks in which Australians suffered 8,700 dead and 19,000 wounded. Murdoch’s father, later Sir Keith Murdoch but a journalist at the time of Gallipoli, took part in a scheme to circumvent the censors and deliver a letter to British prime minister Asquith detailing the campaign’s horrors. The letter, confiscated and rewritten from memory by Keith Murdoch, became a cause célèbre.

Murdoch’s dislike of the monarchy doesn’t affect his London Times but it does bubble up in his tabloids, including the News of the World. Which raises a side issue: Murdoch is an American citizen but that’s a business flag of convenience. As an Australian, he was born a subject of the Queen. A monarchy is a peculiar institution. The largest political party out of power is called Her Majesty’s loyal opposition to indicate that no matter how opposed you are to the government of the day, your loyalty to the monarch remains. Quite a few of Her Majesty’s subjects don’t approve of the monarchy and it’s fine to get up on a soapbox and say so. But it is quite another thing to plot to bring the monarchy into scandal and disrepute. You can’t lose your head for it and treason is scarcely the word, but to have a British newspaper sending out reporters to deliberately entrap royals in a tabloid equivalent of Guy Fawkes seems as non comme il faut as Sarah’s actions.

The centi-millionaire Queen is not blameless. She’s under the thumb of advisers cautioning her to save the monarchy by a show of scrimping. Only the late queen mother could withstand her daughter’s “Oh mummy, not another new outfit surely . . . ” and carry on with a $9-million overdraft. Today’s royals are expected to behave “grandly” on relatively (there’s that word again) skimpy amounts of money.

Both Sarah and Andrew philandered but Sarah got caught. Now she works hard but her debts as a self-confessed spendthrift will always pile up. Her tart-with-a-heart naïveté results in disasters like her self-described “friend,” countess de Lesseps of The Real Housewives of New York City (pure Connecticut Eurotrash), on CNN this week suggesting that surely Andrew knew what his wife was doing? Nothing could make things worse for Sarah than “alleged’ friends like that. And this time I use the word advisedly.

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In defence of (the possibly drunk) Fergie

  1. I would like to point out that this sting was set up because the reporters had had a tip off that The Duchess of York was engaging in this activity. If the newspaper were to simply report the fact and not prove it, Fergie would no doubt have obtained an injunction (which is easier to obtain in London than anywhere in the world) preventing publication and nobody would be any the wiser and she would have carried on with the same air of entitllement that we have all come to associate her with in the UK.

  2. It's a tough world out there and it is going to get toughter.
    Love your writing…tell us more about – pure Connecticut Eurotrash…Westerners need to know.
    Thanks Please, please make Lu Anne stop singing. She really is a beautiful woman …and then she opens her mouth.

  3. Yes, well it does seem obvious to a fellow social sot that Fergie was at least two and perhaps three sheets to the wind when she gathered up her ill gottens, as Ms. Amiel points out so ably.
    However, being "stranded " at functions of the so called hoi polloi cold stone sober is a bit of a fib. One chooses to be there and the only way such events are bearable is to be in the tank . To endure them sober is to admit extremely snobbish ambitions.
    I notice Ms. Amiel keeps quiet about so many important issues only to turn up where she can claim some personal affinity to royals or celebrities. Perhaps she might make better her fortune with a Murdoch publication?
    What is more shocking is not the lengths aristocrats will go to feather their aeries but the depths some of the press will descend to in order to bring them down. Poor Fergie was forced to fly without wings so it is no wonder she sank like a stone.

  4. Fly without wings? Louise, you should put it in plain words: fly without the money the royals grab from their poor fellow subjects. But, hey, then again: mummy the queen is taking steps to even increase the amount of money they can grab, so poorkie Fergie won't embarrass them again. In the end, it all resolves to favor the parasites.

  5. My dear Lady Conrad,

    You may rest assured that the loathing felt by Mr Murdoch for the monarchy is far outweighed by the loathing felt for Mr Murdoch by the British people.

    Her Majesty's former secretaary, the late Lord Charteris, had it about right when he described the former royal as "Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar."

    @Cape: You show a distinct lack of understanding about how and why there is a certain amount of funding for the monarchy. The former royal won't be getting a penny of any increase and has never managed to get her snout in that particular trough, although I'll agree that too many others do. It will gradually end.

  6. Pathetic! Fergie and Babs… and the whole lot of self-aggrandising prigs. They find themselves in positions of privilege that most of us can never dream about… and then they whine about the unfairness. WTF?

  7. Give it a bloody rest, Sarah gets crusified constantly by the British press they love a scapegoat and Princess Michael of Kent must have been otherwise engaged. I think the whole event was a scam meant to be caught so as to raise publicity for her new book which has them lined up for signatures the world round. When the Dutchess of York is quietly doing her charity work etc , she is not in the tabloids or ballyhood by the British subjects, once a scandal breaks she is on every newspaper cover in Great Britian. Camilla must have been having a quiet month for this to be fodder for headlines. The Queen needs to loosen up the purse strings and let Sarah and Andrew remarry as is often alluded to in the press year after year

  8. "let (them) remarry"? They're adults. They should remarry by dint of their own free will, if they so desire. The poor track record of directed marriages by the head of the monarchy speaks for itself. By having not remarried, it seems fairly clear that neither wants anyone else.

  9. Barbara Amiel, of all people, defends Fergie? She whose "extravagance knows no bounds"? Who was fed, clothed and lavished with all the accoutrements of the plutocratic lifestyle, courtesy of the shareholders of Hollinger Inc and her grasping husband?

    The best Barbara can come up with as an excuse for the Duchess's attempted fraud is – wait for it – the poor, desperate woman drank too much wine. "Three sheets", no less. Gosh, that explains everything.

    And then there's that horrible colonial Royal-hater, Rupert Murdoch. Apparently the mere mention of his name is proof Barbara that Fergie was wronged. Perfectly obvious, and perfectly ghastly.

    By the logic (and pathological sense of entitlement) expressed in this article, Lady Black will soon by telling us all about how Bernie Madoff was stiffed, along with the CEOs of Lehmann Brothers, AIG and Enron.

  10. Why is Macleans publishing anything by Amiel?

  11. why is anyone upset by this? why does anyone read this? Oh my Ggggggaaaaawddddd, why am I even commenting on this?

  12. Louise "hoi polloi" refers to common people not the mucky-mucks.

  13. Love stories about the royals and their escapades. Love stories about tycoons in prison orange. Please publish more.

  14. I sympathize with your comments on drinking. I'm a non-drinker as well. It is incredibly dull to sit through parties when you are the only sober head in the room.