As mother of the bride, is Fergie on a royal rebound?
A royal outcast for many years, the Duchess of York now has the backing of the queen for her daughter’s wedding
From her gushing tweets to her self-styled “M.O.B” moniker, it is fair to say the Duchess of York has been relishing every second of being a mother of the royal bride, and who can really blame her?
Cast as a royal outsider ever since she was photographed having her toes sucked by her American “financial adviser” John Bryan, Sarah Ferguson has had to move heaven and Earth to be accepted back into the Windsor fold. The question of how to solve a problem like the Duchess of York has long haunted the monarchy, but Princess Eugenie’s imminent wedding to Jack Brooksbank appears to have partially healed the rift between Prince Andrew’s ex and her in-laws.
For despite somewhat cringeworthy recent behaviour – such as selling juicers on QVC – the woman once unfairly dubbed the Duchess of Pork by the tabloids appears to be experiencing something of a royal renaissance.
With less than two weeks until her youngest daughter marries her 32-year-old fiancé at Windsor Castle, it is Fergie rather than the royal household who has taken the reins of the wedding planning.
While the public may have criticised plans for a carriage procession, followed by not one but two wedding receptions, the 92-year-old queen has made it clear to courtiers that as her beloved granddaughter’s mother, the duchess’s orders are to be respected. The more cynical Duke of Edinburgh may remain unconvinced, but the queen has always had a soft spot for her former daughter-in-law, once declaring to friends: “Whatever she’s done, she’s a good mother.”
It had even been suggested that Sarah might have to occupy the rather lonely spot away from the royals on the other side of the nave in St George’s Chapel, where Doria Ragland sat for her daughter Meghan Markle’s May wedding to Prince Harry – but no, say royal insiders.
As mother of the royal bride, Fergie is not only expected to be seated alongside the Duke of York and Princess Beatrice, but also to be treated as “part of the family” at the champagne reception the queen is hosting afterwards at St George’s Hall, and the following black-tie reception at Royal Lodge, the Windsor home Sarah still shares with Prince Andrew despite the pair divorcing in 1996.
All the finer details were discussed at the highest levels at Balmoral over the summer, where we can reveal the duchess spent her third year in a row holidaying.
Sarah accompanied Andrew, their daughters and Jack to the Scottish castle, where the queen was guest of honour at Princess Beatrice’s 30th birthday party in August.
“Her Majesty thinks Sarah has raised two lovely daughters and is very fond of both of them and looking forward to Eugenie’s wedding, which they obviously chatted about at the party,” a source said. “The queen always tries to see the best in people and she has stayed in close touch, even having tea with her regularly at Windsor.”
It is a very different picture from the one painted in the 1990s, when there was significant tension. It was at Balmoral when Sarah had her most embarrassing moment in 1992, coming down to breakfast to see the toe-sucking photographs splashed across the front pages. It is thought the Duke of Edinburgh, who is 97 and retired from public life, will attend Eugenie’s wedding, as he did Harry and Meghan’s. But although Fergie was invited to their wedding and the main reception, she was left off the guest list for the smaller evening reception at Frogmore House hosted by Prince Charles.
Her own daughter’s wedding, however, is a different matter and the duke will share the same space as the woman he has studiously avoided for more than two decades.
With the seal of approval from upon high, it is perhaps no surprise that Sarah has been taking over much of the party planning. Although the queen’s cousin, party planner Lady Elizabeth Anson, is thought to be involved in the Friday castle reception, Bentleys Entertainment is said to be organising the second festival-themed wedding event on the Saturday afternoon – very much under Sarah’s direction.
It is the same company the Beckhams used when they married at Luttrellstown Castle in Ireland, and the couple are expected to be among the guests.
Sarah’s legendary bargaining skills, which have prompted some behind palace gates to dub her the queen of the freebie, have no doubt been put to good use. The duchess has long proved a pro at parting wealthy individuals from their cash. As one royal watcher who observed her working the room at a recent Pitch@Palace, which gave entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet the people who can help get their businesses off the ground, puts it: “She was literally chasing multimillionaires around the room and down corridors. She can be very charming and very persuasive.”
Of course, these days there are far easier ways to pay for weddings – and speculation has been rife that the duchess may have held talks with Hello! magazine. The magazine declined to comment, although it is perhaps worth noting that the duchess’s engagement tribute to the couple – signed off “Mumsie and Sarahs” – was published in the magazine earlier this year.
The duchess has been keen to promote the big day through other channels, however, appearing on the BBC’s The One Show, where Eugenie, 28, and Jack, 32, had earlier discussed getting engaged in Nicaragua in January.
Sarah declared that she and Brooksbank, who works as the European brand manager for Casamigos Tequila, founded by George Clooney, had bonded over the spirit, saying: “He’ll just hand me the tequila and say: ‘Come on, mother-in-law, down it!’”
Clooney, his wife Amal and Casamigos co-founder Randy Gerber, who is married to supermodel Cindy Crawford, are all expected to be among the estimated 850 guests at the wedding, along with Robbie Williams and his wife Ayda Field.
Keen to stress that the wedding will be very much a family affair, the duchess told The One Show hosts Matt Baker and Alex Jones: “The thing about Andrew and I is that we go with our hearts, we go with the family unity. We really believe in that, you can see that the York family unity, it’s all about seeing the light in life.”
The ever-enthusiastic duchess is already looking forward to becoming a grandmother, insisting: “They are thrilled because I write children’s books and I’m a child, I haven’t grown up.”
Despite the couple’s best efforts, the BBC has refused to televise the 11am ceremony, opting to show clips on the evening news instead. But if her previous tweets are anything to go by, that won’t stop the duchess providing her own running commentary.
The 58-year-old has barely been able to contain her excitement, posting a series of messages containing capital letters. One said: “A total embrace of goodness AND JOY, we love Jack and I AM SO EXCITED to have a son, a brother and a best friend, Eugenie is one of the finest people I know and so together it will BE PURE HARMONY #totaljoy #engagement @TheDukeofYork.”
Quite whether the public will share Sarah’s enthusiasm remains to be seen. Although the palace insists it was inundated with more than 100,000 applications for one of the 1,200 spectator spots within the castle walls, there is still plenty of hotel accommodation available. Only time will tell whether the second-biggest Windsor wedding of the year will live up to the Duke and Duchess of York’s expectations.
– © The Daily Telegraph