Sarah Ferguson was seen as ‘the single greatest threat to the monarchy’ by a senior royal aide who tried to stop her from publishing her first children’s book, a writer has claimed.
A new memoir by publishing industry stalwart John Sargent, who was head of the children’s book division of Simon & Schuster at the time, met with the Duchess of York and the senior aide, according to the Telegraph.
A chapter in the publication, which is titled Turning Pages: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Publisher, describes the meeting, where they discussed her 1989 book Budgie, the Little Helicopter, as ‘tense’.
The book – which went on to be a hugely successful bestseller, spawning merchandise and a cartoon spin-off – was aimed at three to six-year-olds, and drew on Sarah’s own experience as a licensed helicopter pilot.
While the royal was under contract to promote it, and said she was keen to travel to New York to do so, he writes that she said ‘but they won’t let me’.
He rushed from the US to the UK to discuss the promotion for the book, after discovering that the publicity tour was being blocked, where he met with Sarah, who he says became quiet once the aide joined the meeting.
He told the Telegraph that while palace officials finally relented, it was ‘obvious that they wanted to push [him] as far as [he] could go’ and that the meeting was ‘tense’.
Explaining the contractual obligation, an agreement was finally reached between all parties that the New York trip ‘would be manageable’.
Then, according to John, as he left the meeting he was followed by the aide, who ‘apologised for being difficult’, and tried to explain the mechanics of The Firm.
The aide said: ‘Think of it this way, John. The Royal family is like a Fortune 500 company, but in this case all of the management are relatives, and many of them are in-laws.’
John says he then added that he described the Duchess as ‘the single greatest threat to the monarchy in the current era’, adding that controlling the threat was his job.
‘He feared her lack of grace and popularity would stain them all.’ John writes, adding that the comments surprised him.
Over the years, the Duchess has been at the centre of a number of controversies.
Among Sarah’s most embarrassing moments was when photographs were published showing her having her toes sucked by her financial adviser John Bryan at her holiday villa in St Tropez in 1992, while they were also seen kissing, embracing and frolicking in the pool.
She was also said to have had a rift with her once good friend, Princess Diana, after she claimed she got a verruca after borrowing a pair of her shoes. They were reportedly still not speaking at the time of Diana’s death in 1997.
And in 2010 she apologised after being secretly recorded offering to sell access to Andrew in return for £500,000.
However, Sarah did attend the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey last September (but was not one of the 30 guests for Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021).
She was not invited to Prince William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, saying she went on holiday to Thailand instead – but did attend Harry and Meghan’s marriage at St George’s Chapel in Windsor in May 2018.
And Fergie has often spoken out her respect for the late Queen Elizabeth, paying a sweet tribute to her on the first anniversary of her death last week.
The Duchess of York, 63, described her former mother-in-law as a ‘wonderful friend, mentor and a second mother’ in a touching Instagram post.
Sarah, who was married to the Queen’s ‘favourite son’ Prince Andrew for 10 years, shared a sweet photo of the late monarch in her youth.
‘You were a wonderful friend, a mentor, a second mother to me and grandmother to my daughters who share so much of your courage and heart.
‘You will always be loved and missed by our family and our nation,’ she wrote.
Turning Pages: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Publisher, by John Sargent, will be published by Arcade on September 19.