This is the first time Sheila Ferguson, pictured above, has spoken so openly about her relationship with the Prince of Wales. Many of us, as she says, are “making loose ends” during these frightening days
Sheila Ferguson isolated herself at home in Kent for the third week when she heard on the news that Prince Charles had contracted a coronavirus.
She was beside herself with concerns.
“Nobody is exempt from this terrible disease,” said 1970s soul star Sheila. “I was watching CNN when news about the prince broke out.
“It’s so disturbing – not because he’s the heir apparent, but because I have so many friends like him who get the virus.”
She shakes her head incredulously.
Sheila and the Prince, whom she affectionately calls “Charles,” have had a long-standing friendship for more than four decades.
They met at a charity dinner in Eastbourne when he, the age of 29, was the world’s most eligible bachelor.
Sheila was the cheeky, sexy singer of the Three Degrees who challenged the prince to take the stage with them. He was beaten immediately.
“We were the same age and saw each other a few times – he was very flirtatious,” she says.
“It was fairly common knowledge that because he was such a womanizer, Charles had this train where he took women.
The detective, or anyone else, took the train to somewhere in the country and linked it to a telephone pole so they could communicate for security. Once we were dancing and Charles said “I have a train.”
I said, “Yes, I have an airplane.” Of course I didn’t, but it was just a way to get back.
He burst out laughing. I guess because I didn’t succumb to his advances, we just laughed together. I thought he looked nice, but I also realized there was no future in it, so why go there?
“There wouldn’t be a black queen of England, and I didn’t want to be just a notch on his bed style. I appreciated myself a little bit more than that. ‘
Prince Charles is pictured above dancing with the Three Degrees group, with Sheila Ferguson on the right. Sheila was the cheeky, sexy singer of the Three Degrees who challenged the prince to take the stage with them. He was beaten immediately
This is the first time Sheila has spoken so openly about her relationship with the Prince of Wales. Many of us, as she says, are “making loose ends” during these frightening days.
“Of course we do [she means Charles and herself], who are over 70, belong to the high risk category. Not that I feel 72 years old. I keep hearing the word “the elderly,” and it is such a shock to know that it is applied to me and that my friends and I are in danger. I am afraid to get it. ‘
During our interview, Sheila’s moods run on pennies.
One moment she is her half-filled self, enjoying the fact that she can wander around without makeup and few clothes; next she is almost in tears.
For a social creature like Sheila, who has been single since her partner died nine years ago, isolation proves to be particularly trying.
“Nobody is exempt from this terrible disease,” said 1970s soul star Sheila. “I was watching CNN when news about the prince broke out. “It’s so disturbing – not because he’s the heir apparent, but because I have so many friends, like him, who get the virus.”
‘My daughters [twins from her 24-year marriage, which ended in 2004] contact me every day when it used to be every few months. You need it because I don’t have a support group. I have great neighbors, but they have to take care of themselves – I understand that.
“I tried dating when I lived alone in Mallorca. I didn’t see anyone except my handyman and gardener for months, so I signed up with this dating agency. I started by not saying who I was when I got to know them. When I reached the email stage to let them know who I was, I got, “I can’t go out with you – you’re Prince Charles’ favorite.” ‘
“Look, I’m not a person you could have. It is normal . . . “Sheila is almost in tears. Like so many of us, she is deeply dishonored by the terrible virus that has turned life upside down.
This is the first time Sheila has spoken so openly about her relationship with the Prince of Wales. Many of us, as she says, are “making loose ends” during these frightening days
“I have a daughter in Dubai and another in Buckinghamshire. I have a 95-year-old mother in Philadelphia with my aunts and uncles in their 80s and 90s, ”she says.
“If something happened and I couldn’t get there. . . ‘
She sobs now. “I try to keep it inside, but sometimes the emotion comes over.
“While I have this time, I write down what needs to be done when I go for my girls.”
Sheila speaks from a room in her house where the walls are lined with memorabilia from the proudest moments of her colorful life.
There are pictures of her with Princess Margaret and Princess Michael of Kent doing charity work, fancy dinner invitations and a telegram from Prince Charles and Princess Diana sent after Sheila gave birth to her twins in September 1981.
It says, “Congratulations on the birth of your twins. Another girl will insure the Three Degrees for years to come. ‘
Sheila was the toast of London and a regular at legendary nightclubs such as Annabel’s and Tramp when she met Prince Charles at a charity gala dinner at the King’s Country Club, Eastbourne, in July 1978.
“We sat at the table opposite him. The idea was that when the three of us took to the stage to sing, he would have a bird’s-eye view, ”Sheila recalls.
“Then I said to him at dinner,” If you asked someone to join on stage, would you agree? ‘
He smiled slightly. He didn’t say “yes” and he didn’t say “no.” I was encouraged by that. When I got up, I asked if he wanted to join. ‘
And the prince did it. Within hours, a photo of him and the group doing a dance called ‘the Bump’ flashed around the world.
Also that summer, she and her co-stars accompanied him to a polo match in Windsor, which also included Camilla Parker Bowles.
“We were in some sort of VIP room,” says Sheila. “It was the first time I saw a polo match. To be honest, I looked at the Argentinian players because they were bloodthirsty. It was a fascinating sport – to be able to drive a horse and hit such a ball. In the break I walked to where Charles stood with his cap under his arm.
“Camilla [Parker Bowles] was there. She would also come to see him play. But she couldn’t say anything because I think she was married at the time. I just remember seeing eye contact between them.
“He said to me,” Do you want to see my car? “I said,” Yes, certainly. ” He took me over – it was a convertible – and he had all our cassettes in the middle of the car. He was a fan.
“It didn’t really dawn on me that I was with a future King of England. I knew it, but he was just a boy. ‘
After the polo match, the Three Degrees received an invitation from the palace to perform at Charles’ 30th birthday party in November 1978.
“We had an apartment in Park Lane,” she says.
“I came in one day, got the mail, ripped it open, and it was the Queen’s invitation to his thirtieth birthday party. I remember trying to find some Sellotape to put it back together because I hadn’t realized it had a royal seal on it.
“We performed at Buckingham Palace when he was thirty. They didn’t have a stage so they built one between two rooms for us. The sound could not have been more than ten decibels because the Queen Mother was there, as were all the dignitaries of Europe. So the queen had a box on her lap with red, yellow and green lights. Green meant that the sound volume was all right.
“We started with Giving Up, Giving In. When we looked around, we got the green light. ‘
After the performance, the Three Degrees were asked to join the Prince as his guests.
“When we changed, he walked into the party,” she says. “Before, I gave him his birthday present, a solid gold pen with a clock on it, because I have this fascination for clocks and watches.
“He opened it and said,” That’s beautiful. He put it in his breast pocket in his tuxedo. I thought that was very sweet.
“As he escorted us into the grand ballroom, it was like walking arm in arm with Mr. Darcy [from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice]. The Red Sea broke up.
“I thought,” This is from a fairy tale. I can’t believe three black girls from the ghetto got this far. ‘
Sheila was born in poverty in Philadelphia. Her mother had a mental illness, so she was shunted from aunt to aunt and attended 13 schools at the age of ten.
At the age of 14 she met and was signed by her manager, Richard Barrett. They had become lovers within a year. It was a terribly offensive relationship, but one that saw Sheila and the Three Degrees gain amazing fame. She and Barrett broke up shortly after Sheila met Charles.
“Richard was jealous of the attention a man gave me,” she says. “When I knew Charles, he was always in the background. He was very insulting and I felt between a rock and a hard place.
“We were in London when I went out one night and came back to my hotel, and he had left signs all over my room that were very vulgar, like ‘bitch for sale’. I tore them out the door and thought, “This is ridiculous. I can’t live like that. ‘
Sheila and the Prince, whom she affectionately calls “Charles,” have had a long-standing friendship for more than four decades. She is pictured above as a Three Degrees singer
Desperate to escape the torment of the relationship, a distraught Sheila overdosed on pills and tried to cut her wrists.
After swallowing the tablets, she began to regret her actions.
“I called Helen [Scott, her fellow group member] and said, “I don’t want to die.”
“She called an ambulance and we went to any hospital in London. Once you’ve pumped your stomach, don’t try that again, trust me. ‘
Before being fired, Sheila saw a therapist who advised her to dump her manager. She did. Within a year, she had met and married businessman Chris Robinson, while Prince Charles had entered into a relationship with his future bride, Lady Diana Spencer.
“The last time I saw Charles was when we performed at Balmoral,” she says. “We were wearing catsuits and he was wearing a kilt. When I met him, I said, “Look who’s wearing the pants now.”
However, they always remained friends.
“There was always a way to contact Charles if I wanted to, and vice versa. We were able to do it through a mutual friend, ”she says. “We exchanged books and letters.
‘When [Princess] Diana died. I sent a handwritten letter. I thought he had been so dignified in the way he handled things. He never cracked in public. Our mutual friend gave him the letter about brandy and cigars.
“He said the prince’s eyes were watery, which touched me deeply, because it meant he took it as it was supposed to. It was something personal. ‘
A decade later, Sheila was touched briefly when approached as an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.
“I was told Charles said,” Sheila Ferguson will be perfect. It comes from the kind of roots that are good for our good cause. ‘
Again, her smoky voice is heavy with tears: “My heartfelt wishes go to Charles and his family.”
Just like all of us.