The Duchess of York has promised that no stone will be left unturned, and no topic will be off limits when she starts her new podcast – due at midnight, tonight.
‘Everything will be approached with enthusiasm and humour,’ says the Duchess, who will co-host the weekly Tea Talks’ with entrepreneur Sarah Thomson.
But will that turn out to be true? ‘Everything’ covers a great deal in the case of Sarah Ferguson, who has led a life packed with incident, and much else besides.
While Fergie can be more than frank, and is normally happy to drop a few anecdotal gems to assist profile writers in shaping a positive image, it is far from clear she will allow some of the more rackety episodes of her life to feature in full.
It might only add to her current sea of problems if she did.
The Duchess of York has promised to be an completely open when she begins a new podcast – perhaps this week – with entrepreneur Sarah Thomson
The Duchess of York has been open about her financial problems. She discussed them with talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in 2011
But will she talk about the pressure that Prince Andrew faces to leave Royal Lodge?
It is not likely that Fergie will go into her friendship – or Andrew’s friendship – with late financier and sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein. Here, Epstein and Andrew are pictured with Melania Trump (left) and Gwendolyn Beck at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, in 2000
The Duchess has certainly packed a great deal into her 63 years and has many commendable achievements, as a charity founder, Weight Watchers figurehead, prolific children’s author and Mills & Boon romantic fiction writer.
No doubt these will get a full airing, given the slightest opportunity.
The pregnancy of second daughter, Eugenie, should be a safe enough subject. The baby is due any time now and will be a welcome distraction from troubles elsewhere.
And it’s entirely possible she will re-visit the hell of the fiendish debts she ran up – the subject of a high-profile interview with Oprah.
But as to some of the finer detail…
Will she really talk about her friendship with millionaire paedophile, the late Jeffrey Epstein – someone who is known to have lent her money. Unlikely, perhaps.
Last night, MailOnline revealed that the Duchess had visited Epstein in 2010 while he was still under house arrest for having sex with under-age girls.
In a cryptic note on his private calendar, Epstein had told his assistant: ‘Duchess anytime’.
As Epstein is THE topic that most threatens to keep Prince Andrew, her former husband, in outer-darkness, we can expect a discreet silence about that – and about Andrew’s notorious entanglement with the disgraced financier.
Sources suggest that the Duchess is less impressed by the way that other senior members of the family have responded to Prince Andrew’s plight )effectively kicking him out of front-line royal duties) but Fergie is in no position to say so.
There might be more chance of her discussing a parallel nightmare – King Charles’s decision to cut the annual £250,000 grant Andrew had received from his mother.
This reduction in funds probably means he will have to leave Royal Lodge, his home for many years, because the maintenance is expensive. As Fergie spends much of her time living at Royal Lodge, this is bad news for her, too.
Relations with the King are delicate, however, so don’t hold your breath for a free and frank discussion of that.
There is no shortage of colourful material from further back in Sarah’s past she could include, starting with the events of 1992, when she and her husband Prince Andrew had, after six years’ marriage, announced their separation.
Pictured together in 1992, Sarah Ferguson conducted a disastrous affair with John Bryan which marked the end of her life as a royal
Prince Andrew speaking about his links to Jeffrey Epstein in a catastrophic interview with Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis in 2022. It is unlikely that his former wife will repeat the mistake
Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein at Ascot with the Earl (far left) and Countess of Derby
It was a testing time for Sarah, who had seen her public popularity tumble, from being the royal family’s new breath of fresh air, to a much-mocked figure, not least for her fluctuating weight.
While her husband’s post as a naval sea captain meant that she was left alone to raise the couple’s two daughters, it was not long before she found herself in the company of John Bryan, a Texan businessman who was to become her ‘financial adviser’.
It was the smooth Mr Bryan who escorted Sarah on what was to become an infamous sojourn in the south of France. But their choice of villa was not the wisest, with a low wall making it an easy target.
In early August an Italian photographer was rewarded with some of the most scandalous pictures involving a member of the British Royal family. At the side of the villa’s pool, the newly-separated Sarah was pictured in a state of romantic reverie, seeming to have her toes sucked by Mr Bryan. (He would later make the pedantic point that he was kissing her feet, not sucking.)
In others pictures, Sarah was kissing Bryan, while her daughters Beatrice (then aged four) and Eugenie (two) splashed in the pool, and two Scotland Yard protection officers sunbathed nearby,
The pictures caused a sensation when they were published two days later in the Daily Mirror. Its 3.5 million print run had sold out by 9am.
When further pictures appeared on Sunday morning, Sarah could not have been in a more unfortunate position. She had been invited by the Queen to Balmoral to, according to reports ‘discuss her future’.
Until that morning of global public embarrassment, starting at the Balmoral breakfast table with members of the royal family looking aghast as they flipped through the papers, Sarah had counted herself to be in a reasonably civilised position.
While she and Andrew had officially separated, relations between the two were certainly cordial. They had been at Royal Ascot and she had made public appearances by Andrew’s side. Sarah had arrived at Balmoral expecting civilised discussions about the amount of her divorce settlement and the custody arrangements of her two children.
Instead, while Prince Philip and others remained stony-faced around the breakfast table, the Queen, upstairs in her sitting room with a copy of the Sunday Mirror in front of her, summoned Sarah.
‘The Queen was furious, absolutely furious. I think partly because she loved Fergie [Sarah] so much,’ said Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine. ‘She just couldn’t believe Fergie could have been so stupid to allow this to happen. When Fergie backed out of the Presence in a deep curtsy she knew her life as a royal was well and truly over.’
While the fallout of those pictures haunted Sarah for years, and led to her being treated as a pariah by several members of the royal family, worse was to come almost 20 years later, when Sarah fell victim to a sting in which she was filmed by a newspaper offering to take cash for access to her ex-husband, who was then the UK’s special trade envoy.
Facing considerable debts – Sarah has freely confessed to an almost child-like inability to handle her finances – she was shown clapping her hands with delight when an undercover tabloid reporter led her into a room with nearly £30,000 sitting on the table.
‘Oh my god, you’re a genius,’ she told the News of the World’s Mahzer Mahmood as she laid eyes on the cash. Unfortunately for Sarah. Mahmood (who would three years later be jailed himself for manipulating evidence in another sting) was taping the whole encounter.
The cash on the table was supposedly a down payment of £500,000 which Mahmood, posing as an Indian businessman, was offering to buy access to Prince Andrew. At one point Sarah told the reporter: ‘I can open any door you want.’
When the footage was published, Sarah’s professional life collapsed. She was later to claim that because of the scandal her earnings had dropped from £750,000 to £54,000. She also blamed alcohol for her bad judgment – in her Oprah interview, she confessed to drinking heavily, saying she had been ‘in the gutter at that moment’ when falling for the sting.
It would all make for a fascinating discussion. Yet….
Today, the royal family’s relations with Sarah have thawed; she was invited by the king to spend last Christmas at Sandringham.
The podcast, announced in May, has already been delayed, although the reason is unclear. But there is no doubt it is keenly awaited.
What, then, given the difficulty of her situation, will she find to discuss about when, as expected, Tea Talks makes its debut at midnight?
The podcast has already been delayed, although the reason is unclear
Fergie might talk about her pregnant daughter, Princess Eugenie. She is pictured, left, with sister Princess Beatrice attending the Coronation Big Lunch
Sarah has a new role as Keeper of the Queen’s corgis Muick and Sandy, having been bequeathed the royal pets after the monarch’s death last September
Prince Andrew greeting Queen Elizabeth’s corgis at Windsor Castle during the Committal Service for Queen Elizabeth II held at St George’s Chapel in September
Animals are a good bet, in particular her new role as Keeper of the Queen’s corgis Muick and Sandy, having been bequeathed the royal pets after the monarch’s death last September.
‘Sometimes I break a little biccie – a digestive biscuit – in the same way the Queen broke it into little pieces, and give it to them and tell them to remember their boss,’ she disclosed in a recent interview.
She describes the mishaps she’s been linked with over the years as ‘enormous learning curves’.
She says people ‘don’t know the real Sarah’ but that she is strong and happy in herself.
‘I’ve done the work to get to myself. I’ve done masses of mental therapy. I probably reached to the wrong places and the wrong people and made mistakes. But I don’t call them mistakes.
‘I call them enormous learning curves.’
We can probably expect some more of that tonight – and in the coming weeks.