Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up. Horn:
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, apparently attempted to sell access to her former husband Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II. The attempt was caught on tape in a sting operation by British publication News of the World. Ferguson allegedly asked for a $40,000 up-front fee, followed by a $724,000 deposit into her bank account, according to Fox News. Unsurprisingly, the British public’s not too happy. The footage has even sparked some reaction in the U.S. There are a few willing to defend the scandal-prone duchess in the media, but the condemnations have generally been swift and fierce.
Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:
News of the World writes (caps theirs):
Unknown to the Prince, Fergie PROMISED to introduce us to him, CLAIMED he’d help fix lucrative deals and DEMANDED a cut of all profits.
Along the way she also INSISTED on one per cent commission on any deals we might strike due to her royal connections, and DEMANDED we wire the main £½million backhander into her private HSBC bank account.And though the world of princes and duchesses is a bit foreign to Americans, the implications are pretty clear. Imagine if Whitney Houston did this to Bobby Brown, but Bobby Brown’s mom was Nancy Reagan.
A comment on the News of the World site puts it like this: “Royals: lazy people, get a work!!!”
Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:
There are destroyed public images, and then there are destroyed public images — and now there is Great Britain’s Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson. Her name will now forever be associated with getting caught on tape in a tabloid sting operation where she was allegedly trying to sell access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew for $700,000, apparently seeking to make big bucks from her remaining links to Buckingham Palace, and putting some $40,000 into her bag before leaving the scene of her forever-destroyed reputation’s graphic demise. And apparently being tipsy when it all occurred.
Adding to the humiliation: she says herself in the video that the Prince himself is squeaky clean, suggesting more than ever that she viewed her association with Buckingham Palace as a kind of fallback lifetime lottery — except in this discreet lottery no one except her and the clients to whom she was peddling Buckingham Palace access knew she was about to win big. Now, as this story rapidly exploded in England and throughout the world via TV, print and the Internet, she has issued a statement saying she is “devastated” and “regretful” by the video.
Christina Odone at The Telegraph:
It makes me sad. The Duchess, I know, was always over the top, a loud lively lass with a twinkle in her eye and an appalling taste in everything from men to clothes. But she was, undoubtedly, fun. She brought Diana down to earth, clowning about for the paparazzi at Klosters. She giggled at Buckingham Palace and showed too much leg at Clarendon House. Around her, Andrew beamed, Charles looked priggish, and the Queen looked like she was, for once, having a good time.
And when she fell, she fell so spectacularly, you kind of warmed to her. She was caught sucking a man’s toes. They were not Prince Andrew’s, and all hell broke loose. Fergie was banished from Royal circles, and even though she and her ex-husband stayed in touch, she was a pariah. This allowed her to date a long list of increasingly unappetising (but always wealthy) characters, which of course kept the tabloids buzzing around “the Duchess”. Her exploits grew more and more like a hysterical hen party that never led to marriage. Or, in her, case re-marriage.
But nothing could keep her down. She made good money as an ambassadress for Weight Watchers, she wrote a children’s book, and she took America by storm, gracing every TV sofa from Oprah’s to Jay Leno, and every party from Manhattan to Miami.
On this side of the Atlantic, they were less welcoming: they bitched about her going out on the town with her teenage daughters, and about her making a documentary about common people. Still, everyone had to admit, this Duchess bounced back. She seemed to have regained Prince Andrew’s love, and even the hard-hearted had to smile at the sight of the two ex-spouses chortling together over their daughters.
Fergie, it seemed, was flawed, but human, and you couldn’t help wish her well. But now, the cat has used up all her lives. The accusation of selling access to her (unwitting and innocent) ex is ugly, greedy stuff, which won’t play well at the Palace, or in ordinary homes. Sarah Ferguson, the jolly Royal, is no more. The desperate Duchess has taken her place, and she’s not a pretty sight.
Harry Mount at The Telegraph:
Looking at the video of the newspaper sting that got her, it’s like looking at a museum piece, or a very clever installation by an artist – “The 1980s Sloane,” you might call it. Everything’s still in place, as if we are still in Sloane Square in c.1982 – the lunchtime bottle of wine (a £95 bottle of burgundy), the fags (Marlboro Lights, I do hope, though it’s hard to tell from the video), the swearing like a trooper. Even her food at Mosimann’s in Belgravia (a stone’s throw from Sloane Square) is pretty 80s – the pea soup (£12.50) followed by the lamb and vegetables (£30).
And, of course, the traditional Sloane stupidity has survived intact. Surely, every celeb in the land should now be familiar with the operational tactics of Mazher Mahmood, the News of the World’s resident fake sheikh and chief investigations editor.
I once interviewed her for the Telegraph in New York, where she was launching her own eponymous sandwich – the Duchess of York (grilled chicken breast on rye, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese and a horseradish-flavoured light mayo), manufactured by a company called French’s, who were paying her to promote the mayo.
I must say that Fergie was tremendously friendly – “Oh, call me Sarah” – and good jolly Sloane company. “That’s humungous,” she said – excellent Sloane word – as she was handed a two-inch thick Duchess of York to sample. She was also very unguarded – a quality that’s a great relief to a reporter in search of good quotes, but a disaster for a member of the Royal Family, particularly when combined with hunger for cash.
James Whitaker at The Guardian:
The woman is skint. And, like any desperate person, she will do almost anything to get her hands on some cash. Fergie has made it abundantly clear that if this means “using” Andrew she will not think twice.
It isn’t attractive – it’s not so different from selling your mother. But the question has to be asked: how has the Queen allowed the situation to deteriorate to this level? The duchess was always a loose cannon and needed looking after.
The amount of money apparently granted to Fergie on her divorce was abysmal; £15,000 a year is hardly a fortune for any divorcee with children to bring up. But when those children are granddaughters of the sovereign, such a piffling amount is asking for trouble. And now the Windsors have got it.
Fergie, by fair means or foul, needs money. She’s beyond caring what the royal family think of her. In the case of Prince Philip she’s always known. Years ago the duke described her as “having no point”. Her relationship with the Queen is more civilised: there will always be contact.
UPDATE: Rebecca Dana at The Daily Beast