The royal family has been busy in the last couple of weeks, throwing glittering Buckingham Palace parties – tiaras required at one – for guests including Donald Trump, but during it all they have stayed totally silent on the vexed subject of Prince Andrew.
But one Windsor fringe dweller has broken ranks and publicly defended the pariah Duke of York, 59, amid the fallout from his Newsnight interview.
Sarah Ferguson was exiled from the royal inner circle when she and Andrew divorced 23 years ago, but the pair has stayed so close they live together in Windsor and holiday at their French ski chalet.
The Duchess of York was a firecracker during her Buckingham Palace days – poking people in the bottom with umbrellas at Royal Ascot, having her toes sucked by her financial adviser – and she’s gone rogue again, defending Andrew on the record.
Always the Duke of York’s most staunch and gushy supporter on social media, Sarah, 60, has described the Jeffrey Epstein scandal which has seen her ex lose his royal position, office and duties as “nonsense”.
She said the last six months since Epstein was found dead in a New York jail and Andrew was accused by ‘sex slave’ Virginia Roberts Giuffre of having sex with her when she was 17 have been “very hard” for her and princess daughters Beatrice, 31, and Eugenie, 29.
“To see such a wonderful man go through such enormous pain,” she told Vogue Arabia of Andrew.
“He is the best man I know. It’s just incredible what he has done for Britain, and it’s all nonsense.”
Sarah also chimed in last month, the night before the disastrous Newsnight appearance, when she called Andrew a “giant of a principled man” in a profuse Instagram tribute.
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It is so rare to meet people that are able to speak from their hearts with honesty and pure real truth, that remain steadfast and strong to their beliefs. Andrew is a true and real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness and goodness of always seeing the best in people. I am deeply supportive and proud of this giant of a principled man, that dares to put his shoulder to the wind and stands firm with his sense of honour and truth. For so many years he has gone about his duties for Great Britain and The Monarch. It is time for Andrew to stand firm now, and that he has, and I am with him every step of the way and that is my honour. We have always walked tall and strong, he for me and me for him. We are the best examples of joint parenting, with both our girls and I go back to my three C’s .. Communicate Compromise Compassion @hrhthedukeofyork
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“I used to say to anyone who came to see them, ‘Do not bring your problems to my girls. It’s not their problem’,” she said.
“Leave the problems at the door, along with your ego. Why should they be persecuted?”
Saying she still has battles with her own public image, Sarah divulged her tip for getting through: every morning, she recited Rudyard Kipling’s If.
“Beatrice always says that I’m the most misunderstood person,” she said. “I agree.”
On the subject of another duchess who gets unfavourable press, Sarah compared herself to Meghan Markle, 38.
Said Sarah, “It must be hard for Meghan, and I can relate to her.
“I believe she is modern and fabulous. I tend not to give advice because it is taken out of context, but I have been in Meghan’s shoes, and I still am.
“There’s always a twist of negativity and it just gets so sad and tiring. I feel desperately sorry for the pain they must be going through because I’ve been through it.”
The duchess, who spoke to the magazine in Riyadh during a corporate visit, admitted she “eventually self-sabotaged” during her time as a senior royal.
“I didn’t think of the ramifications of my actions. I was at the bottom of the barrel. It was almost as if I wanted to be unlovable.”
Now, she feels “the chains of her soul” are freed: “My failures have made me stronger and ready to deal with the obstacles of life. You need to steer yourself back to keeping yourself in joy.”