Topless toe sucking and why Prince Philip thought Fergie was ‘just beyond the bleak’

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In general, Prince Philip was fairly cautious when talking about his children and their relationships, except in the case of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

He spoke with genuine affection about their daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, but made no secret of the fact that he viewed Sarah, Duchess of York, as ‘just beyond the naked’.

One day in the summer of 1992, while she was staying with the Queen and Prince Philip in Balmoral, topless photos had appeared in a newspaper of Sarah and her toes were sucked by a lover in the South of France.

The Duke of Edinburgh decided that, as far as he was concerned, ‘enough was enough’. He didn’t want – or need – have anything to do with her anymore.

The Duke of Edinburgh regarded Sarah, Duchess of York, as ¿just beyond the pale¿

The Duke of Edinburgh considered Sarah, Duchess of York, as ‘just beyond the pale’

For the remainder of Sarah’s stay in Balmoral, his actions spoke louder than words. “It was ridiculous,” she told me. As soon as I entered through one door, he fell over the corgis to come out of the other. It was very funny. Except of course not. ‘

After Sarah divorced Prince Andrew, the Queen continued to drink tea with her from time to time.

But Prince Philip was determined: he didn’t want to see her again.

This Sarah knew and it hurt her. “Of course I want to see him,” she told me after her divorce. “After all, I am the mother of his granddaughters.”

I brought this up to Prince Philip, but he shrugged and said, “But the children come and stay.”

When I asked why he wouldn’t see Sarah, he said, “I’m not vindictive.” When he looked straight at me, he added emphatically, “I’m not vindictive, but I don’t see the point.” The fact that Andrew and Sarah turned out to remain friends after their divorce – and that they even shared a house after their divorce – seemed “really bizarre” to him.

“I don’t pretend to understand,” he said.

Sarah, however, kept trying to restore bridges.

For Philips 80th birthday, she sent him a beautiful set of dishes. (It should have had 12 settings, but it came with 13: the sample was included with the set. Something always goes wrong with Sarah somehow). He sent her a nice thank you note and signed it ‘With love’ from ‘Dad’.

Prince Philip regarded restraint as a virtue and self-restraint as a quality to be admired

Prince Philip regarded restraint as a virtue and self-restraint as a quality to be admired

Prince Philip regarded restraint as a virtue and self-restraint as a quality to be admired

In reality, Philip and Sarah could hardly have been more different from each other.

Sarah believes that bottling up your feelings is positively harmful. When her daughters were younger, she said to me, ‘I say to my girls,’ Come on, tell me. Are you mad at me? Have I annoyed you? “We’ll sit and talk. Or I’ll leave them in the middle of Sunninghill Park and scream – and that’s what I do.”

Sarah suddenly said, “Aargh!” for me.

‘I make them scream. They say, “Mama, we can’t.” I say, “Why not? Who’s going to hear? Scream.”

The prospect of seeing his former daughter-in-law screaming in the middle of Sunninghill Park could be one of the reasons the Duke of Edinburgh decided to give her a wide berth following her divorce from Prince Andrew.

He viewed restraint as a virtue and self-control as a quality to be admired.

In 2011, on the week of its 90th birthday, the Oprah Winfrey Network in the US aired Finding Sarah, a six-part TV series in which the former Duchess of York shared her tears and her grief with a TV psychiatrist and millions of viewers.

Philip did not tune in. He told me he was for ‘self-awareness’, but against ‘the endless introspection that seems to be so prevalent these days’.

I came across a phrase from the writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch and showed it to him because I thought he would like it: herself. ‘

“That’s exactly it,” he said. “You can put that in your book.”

For the last ten years of his life, Prince Philip was glad he didn’t have to lie awake from his various daughters-in-law.

Diana was dead. Camilla he accepted. Sophie he could rely on. And Sarah Ferguson that he didn’t think about at all.

“I think Sarah is still obsessed with you,” I said. He snorted.

“You clearly love her daughters,” I insisted. “Is their mother invisible at all?” “Her behavior was a bit strange,” he said.