Three new Sarah Ferguson biographies
Sarah Ferguson’s red-tipped toes point seductively from the cover of her new autobiography, Sarah—The Duchess of York: My Story, cowritten by Jeff Coplon, as if inviting the world to partake of what, until now, only her onetime paramour John Bryan enjoyed. Vulgar? Maybe. Just think of it as our earthy, zany, madcap Fergie out trying to make an honest buck.
And if you read only My Story and skip the other two books about the erstwhile princess that have just come out — Fergie: Her Secret Life, by her once-close friend Allan Starkie, or Fergie: The Very Private Life of the Duchess of York, by her astrologist Madame Vasso — you might very well fall for her portrait of a free spirit victimized by a cruel and unyielding monarchy.
Indeed, My Story is a page-turner, not because it contains much gossip (Ferguson was forbidden under the terms of her divorce to dish), but for its fascinating detail about an outsider dealing with rigid palace protocol and the tension-filled power struggles Ferguson had with what is called ”The Firm.”
For the first six months of their courtship, for instance, Ferguson addressed Prince Andrew as ”Sir,” even when cooking him baked beans in the privacy of her apartment. During Christmas at Sandringham, Ferguson had to dress for breakfast, then change for church, then switch outfits again for lunch, change for hunting, dress again for tea, and put on yet another outfit for dinner. After she married Andrew, she was stuck alone in their dark Buckingham Palace flat (where the draperies were always drawn because the tourists could see up into the windows) while he was off serving in the Royal Navy. ”Lunch and supper had to be ordered from our menus the night before,” writes Ferguson. ”Suppertime was 7:30, but by the time the meal arrived, the footman would be weary and my grilled fish invariably cold, for the kitchen sat in a different, distant wing of the Palace, a mile away.”
Weary footmen, of course, were the least of Ferguson’s troubles. While she was popular for the first few years of her marriage, the stern Palace courtiers — she calls them the ”Grey Men” — swiftly turned on her, orchestrating her downfall. ”Their hostility toward outsiders was legend,” she writes. ”They drove me mad, these constipated, self-appointed keepers of the gate.”
However, if you read about Ferguson’s sordid affairs with John Bryan and Steve Wyatt in Fergie: Her Secret Life and Madame Vasso’s Fergie, you can see that the Grey Men had help when it came to driving her out of Buckingham Palace. Both authors describe Ferguson as insecure, oversexed, and self-destructive. Starkie’s book, which Ferguson tried unsuccessfully to ban in Britain, details her stormy affair and busy sex life with Bryan but is disorganized and sloppy — despite classy revelations about how happy Ferguson was to go off Prozac because it meant she could have an orgasm again. His story is also mean, depicting Sarah as an alleged drinker and an occasionally neglectful mother. Madame Vasso, for her part, provides such tidbits as Ferguson’s ”violent rivalry” with Princess Di over John F. Kennedy Jr., and the advice she gave the Princess of Wales for spicing up her sex life with Charles. Both books, however, are poorly written and boring: Fergie’s own may be a bit self-aggrandizing, but it will at least keep readers on their toes. My Story: B Fergie: Her Secret Life: D Fergie: The Very Private Life of the Duchess of York: D-