Americans love Fergie; British still bitter that she's better than other royalty

Fergie and 'the mark of the devil' on her forehead: The truth about the Duchess's claims

Come tomorrow, audiences in America will be glued to the Oprah Winfrey Network production Finding Sarah: From Royalty To Reality. The Sarah in question is none other than Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. And given that audiences there lap up confessionals and royalty, a combination of the two should be a hit.

But how ‘real’ is it? Many commentators have been sceptical about some of the Duchess’s sensational claims, most particularly the allegations of abuse at the hands of her own mother, Susan, leaked to garner publicity for the show.

Sarah told Oprah’s favourite ‘screen therapist’, a horrified Dr Phil McGraw, that her mother hit her when she missed the potty or refused to eat and that she told her a vein that came up in her forehead ‘was the sign of the devil’ and must be beaten out of her.

Sarah then revealed that after her mother had abandoned her and decamped to Argentina with her lover, when Sarah was just 12, her father Ron Ferguson used to say she looked like a ‘sheep’s ass’ or ‘a clown’ when she was upset.

The six-part documentary, for which the Duchess reportedly received a fee of around £200,000, is the latest in a series of televised outpourings that she has taken part in since her divorce from the Duke of York in 1996.

Since these latest recollections about her mother emerged from preview tapes, Sarah has been accused of attention-seeking and false memory syndrome. Many are appalled at her willingness to bare her soul for money, particularly as it is said that some of the programmes had to be refilmed when Oprah declared them not dramatic enough.

This week, her sister, Jane, who has seen footage of the interview, said she found the Duchess’s outpourings ‘confronting’ and at odds with her own childhood memories. ‘It certainly wasn’t my experience,’ she remarked.

Perhaps few upper-middle-class, brisk Army families of the Sixties — most of whom can breathe easy that their cruel sense of humour or callous words will never be exposed on U.S. television — would have lived up to Dr Phil’s contemporary parenting ideals.

Not that Sarah ever resented the presence of Hector Barrantes or her stepmother in her parents’ lives. ‘She adored both her step-parents,’ says the friend. ‘And she was pleased that she talked about these things to her father before he died. She was very close to him, but he had no idea how to bring up girls.

‘It has affected her behaviour as a parent in a positive way. She thinks the whole experience has made her a much better mother, and she is grateful to her parents in a sense because she has learned from their mistakes. She has always been committed to her daughters and decided that she would never leave them, and she never has.’

Susan Barrantes died in a horrific car crash in Argentina in September 1998 at the age of 61. The friend says: ‘Sarah always loved her mother. She was relieved that she had spoken to her on the phone on the day she died, because Sarah had asked her if she loved her, and Susan assured her that she did.’

‘She thought her mother was a wonderful person; she doesn’t want to portray her as a bad mother and she is worried she is being misconstrued.’

Along with her emotional turmoil, Sarah is confronting her own problems with money on another TV show, Finding Sarah with ‘financial guru Suze Ozman’. And money, of course, is the reason why she has chosen to air these agonising revelations on Oprah Winfrey’s Network.

Not just for what she is being paid for the series itself, her intermediary friend explains, but also as a rebranding exercise for her in America.

‘Let’s be clear — she wouldn’t be saying all this if work hadn’t dried up there after the News of the World sting,’ he says, referring to how Sarah was caught on tape by an undercover reporter from the paper selling access to Prince Andrew.

Since her divorce, America has been the largest source of her income, and Sarah is desperate to reawaken her fortunes there. She is now claiming to be out of debt for the first time in years.

Financially, this exercise is a gamble. But in a country that loves a crisis followed by a comeback, it might just be one that works.


whatever, Fergie is QUEEN in my mind. Watch her show tonight!!