These days, Sarah Ferguson—better known as the Duchess of York, or simply “Fergie”—is deeply, unapologetically herself. While years ago she may have let the media's digs about her fashion choices affect her, today, for example, she's wearing a daisy headband with aplomb (“why can’t I have a daisy headband on?” she asks rhetorically). She's finally in a place of total self-acceptance, she says: “I’ve learned: don't try and explain yourself—just be yourself."
The Duchess, who turns 63 this week, is busy. “I’m just nonstop, really,” she says. Her first work of historical fiction, 2021’s Her Heart for a Compass (opens in new tab), was based on the story of her great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, a story she says it took 15 years to get out of her head and onto the page. (Ferguson is confident it will be adapted on-screen in some capacity.) Though Her Heart was Ferguson's first foray into writing romance, she’s written over 70 books—many of them children’s books—and recently signed a 22-book deal with Australian publisher Serenity Press to write young adult books based on her own experiences with mental health and eating disorders.
Though Ferguson's career outside of life in the royal family has included gigs ranging from spokesperson to producer to television correspondent and charity patron, she's most passionate about the role of author. “I’m so proud, at 62, to say I can really own the author title,” Ferguson says. “I’m really proud that I have found, at last, my real sense of fun and joy and peace is to write. I write poetry as well. I write in pen and ink—I just love to write.”
Finding the path to her most authentic self has not been without bumps. Her over 36-year stint in the public eye since marrying Prince Andrew in 1986 has been fraught with controversy, though the two have been divorced since 1996. (In 2021, Andrew was accused of sexual abuse and battery by Virginia Giuffre; the civil lawsuit was settled out of court in February.) “I’ve fought my way through some extremely, very difficult and dark moments,” Ferguson says.
Today, however, she describes her life as peaceful. “I woke up yesterday and I realized I was deeply happy,” she says. "It feels good to become and to not have the insecure self-doubt all day long. Of course, it creeps back in, but I can put it in the back of the car instead of it driving the car. The ability to do that means that I’m learning. I’m learning. I’m a work in progress.” Progress that includes, at last, recognizing her own worth: “I would love to be a friend of mine,” she says thoughtfully.
Next year will see at least two more books published for the Duchess—another work of historical fiction, A Most Intriguing Lady (opens in new tab), and a self-help book, both due in early 2023. She’s also committed to becoming what she calls “super-Gran” (Princess Eugenie’s son, August, and Princess Beatrice’s daughter, Sienna, were both born in 2021): “I’ve decided to get really fit and really strong and really get in good shape,” she says. “That’s really important to me.”
Though most of her life today involves looking forward, the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death on August 31 took the Duchess back to the woman she calls her best friend from the age of 14—a woman who shared the unique experience of marrying into the royal family and its accompanying fanfare. “I had one beautiful, beautiful friend, and that was Diana,” Ferguson says. She remembers Diana’s innate ability to make her cry with laughter, how Diana would look straight-faced and how “I would always get into trouble because I was laughing so much."
The Duchess—who calls her sister-in-law “an extraordinary spirit and a light for the whole world”—says that, even a quarter-century later, Diana’s presence is never far from her mind. “I don’t miss her, because she’s with me,” she says. “Last night I had a dream about her, and I know she’s with me. And I’m just so proud of her, and she’d be so proud of her sons and beautiful grandchildren.”
Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the royal editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
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