Fergie's Wedding Snub, the Royals and Money

Fergie, still the black sheep of the royal family.

Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson is at again.  This time she's over-sharing with American royalty, HRH Oprah. In a taped interview Sarah expressed her embarrassment over not being invited to her nephew William's wedding.

Sarah told Oprah, "I was not invited," and she expressed the snub as being very "difficult" to deal with stating,"because I wanted to be there with my girls...to be getting them dressed and to go as a family."  Sarah added, "I went through the phase of feeling so totally worthless and that [it] was quite right they didn't invite me. Why would they, why would they invite me?" she asked.

Why indeed? Sarah Ferguson has certainly caused her share of embarrassment for the royal family and the latest debacle was likely fresh in the memory of Queen Elizabeth and Prince William when the wedding invites were being discussed.

It was just a year ago when the Duchess, cigarette in one hand a glass of white wine in the other, was caught on a hidden camera asking a softly-spoken young businessman for £500000 for an introduction to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew who is currently an unpaid trade ambassador for Britain.

In fact, the businessman turned out to be the infamous undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood who trapped the greedy royal when he handed over $40000 in cash to seal the deal. During the 'sting' operation the Duchess told the erstwhile businessman: "Look after me and he'll (Prince Andrew) look after you. You'll get it back tenfold. I can open any door you want." She had already boasted of introducing two tycoons to her influential ex-husband and seemed to contradict herself about Prince Andrew's role in the proceedings.

At first she implied that Prince Andrew was in on the deal saying: 'He (Andrew) says, 'Let's play, we'll play' as long as it's nothing to do with him...But you will be his friend.' Then she was at pains to point out that he never took a penny for his work and that he was 'whiter than white.'  When Fergie's Follies were made public in the News of the World tabloid, the Prince was quick to distance himself from all knowledge of his former wife's behaviour.

She spent that fateful day sobbing in her rooms at the Royal Lodge in Windsor Park - the former home of the Queen Mother now owned by Prince Andrew who rents his ex-wife's temporary accommodation. Then she flew to Los Angeles to accept a charity award before heading to New York where she told an audience at a children's book fair that she 'hated' grown-ups and loved children.

As for the briefcase containing the now toxic $40000 -- she carelessly left it behind on the kitchen table of her rented apartment. It was somehow symbolic of the utterly haphazard nature of her life. As she said at the book fair: "Real life is too extreme for fiction." In other words you just cannot make it up. While she issued a statement apologizing for her "serious lapse of judgment", she was savvy enough to embrace the errant celebrity's equivalent of  absolution -- a 10 minute confessional on the Oprah show.

It was a reprise of the way she described herself in her memoir My Story in 1996. Then she called herself: "gullible, reckless, a spendthrift, a woman wholly unfitted for royal life." After all this wasn't the first time Fergie was publicly humiliated. When she was still married to Prince Andrew she was photographed having her toes sucked by her so called 'financial advisor' as her two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie played in a swimming pool.

The Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, herself no stranger to scandal, was so horrified that she sent the 'dreadful' Duchess a coruscating letter of condemnation. "You have done more to bring shame on the Royal Family than could ever have been imagined. Not once have you hung your head in embarrassment, even for a minute. Clearly you have never considered the damage you are doing us all. How dare you discredit us?"

Princess Margaret and the Queen know all about the dark side of royalty. They were brought up during the biggest scandal to rock the royal family when Edward Vlll, who later became the Duke of Windsor, abdicated his throne in 1936 in favour of marriage to the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson.  In time the Duke and Duchess, who lived in exile in France, became notorious in Society circles for insisting on appearance money at social functions. Even the Duke's butler was appalled by his royal master's behaviour. The final straw came when he witnessed the former king daintily painting his wife's toe nails.

He was considered to be the black sheep of the royal family -- until the Duchess of York came along. The daughter of Prince Charles's polo manager Major Ron Ferguson, she enjoyed the perks and the privileges of royalty, confusing the royal idea of service to the nation with self-service. In the early years of her marriage she became notorious inside the royal family for asking suppliers for discounts on everything from designer dresses to kitchens. On one occasion she asked the designer Zandra Rhodes for a discount in return for the resulting headlines, Miss Rhodes said: "Darling, I don't need the publicity."

She was literally taking the Queen's name in vain.

However, while she and other minor royals have taken the Queen's name in vain, the royal family have taken for granted the fact that new arrivals into the House of Windsor can afford the entry fee. Keeping up appearances is expensive - royal ladies change clothes three times a day for example. In the old days when royalty married royalty or high born aristocracy, that wasn't a problem.

These days royals cast their net further afield for partners. They cannot always count on the Bank of Mum and Dad - or rather Lord and Lady Muck - to bail them out.

During her courtship with Prince Edward for example, Sophie Rhys-Jones was given £10,000 for new clothes by a well-connected friend because her father, a retired manager, simply couldn't afford to keep her in the manner to which she was being bred. She never for a moment considered asking her royal fiancé for help -- not that he would have considered offering it.

This helps to explain why Fergie, and other minor royals, have got themselves into a right royal financial mess. The royal family have a schizophrenic attitude towards cash; they are at once both inordinately stingy and ridiculously extravagant. Money for them is simply a prop in the theatre of their lives.

So for instance Prince Charles, one of the first to champion green issues, thinks nothing of ordering his chauffeur-driven Bentley to return to Highgrove, his country home, to turn off the lights. Other examples abound; on a visit to Hong Kong, he had milk from the dairy at Windsor Castle specially flown out for his morning cup of tea. When he is on the Queen's estate at Balmoral in Scotland he will have fruit and vegetables flown from his country estate. The Queen too is untroubled by her portrait as an inordinately thrifty woman who saves string and meal time leftovers in plastic containers. Yet in the days when she had a royal yacht, she thought nothing of diverting it for miles simply so that she could post a letter.

Her indifference to the mechanics of money is epitomized by the fact she never carries any. Again when her eldest son goes to church he always takes a fresh £10 note with him. But first that note is ironed and pressed by his valet with the Queen's head facing outwards

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As one of the world’s best-known biographers and a leading authority on modern celebrity, Morton has been called "the king of celebrity biographers." He became an overnight sensation with the publication of his groundbreaking 1992 biography revealing the secret world of the late Diana, Princess…

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