The Duchess of York went on the Oprah Winfrey show this week to tell her side of the "selling Prince Andrew for cash" video. Carol Allen in London assesses the reaction to the story in the UK in this week's postcard.
Sarah Ferguson poured her heart out to Oprah
When the story first broke in the weekly tabloid News of the World under the screaming banner headline "Fergie sells Andy for 500 K," the inevitable speedy follow-up in the rest of the press was certainly critical. The UK media heaped scorn, for example, on the Duchess' claims to be broke in view of her extravagant lifestyle. But it was also not unsympathetic.
One columnist described her as "a loud lively lass with a twinkle in her eye and an appalling taste in everything from men to clothes, who was, undoubtedly, fun." But even this supportive voice admitted that this time "the cat has used up all her lives. The Desperate Duchess has taken over from the jolly royal and is not a pretty sight."
The Guardian suggested that a prince and by implication his ex-wife should be able to sell his influence like any other well-connected non-royal might do. But the same paper suggested, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that the Queen would do well to welcome Fergie back into the royal family on the grounds that such a move would render her "dumb with gratitude, which is precisely what the royal family yearns for."
The view was also put forward that far from being a major scandal, this was merely "the tipsy ex-wife of a man with a pretend job, making empty promises to a pretend businessman." And it was a small tragedy rather than a huge scandal.
Lack of royal dignity
By the middle of the week, the story was beginning to die down. Then the silly woman announced she was going to confess all on the Oprah Show and the carnival started up again.
Carol Allen reflects on Fergie's motivations
For us Brits, public breast beating is just embarrassing. I know so-called celebs do it all the time now. But to audiences here, it's really a 21st century form of bear baiting. We expect a bit more dignity from our royals, even if they're only ex-royals by marriage.
The headlines here reporting on the Oprah confessional have tended to center on her admission that she'd been drinking when she made her offer to sell her hubby for a few silver dollars. Looking at "that video," she certainly does appear to be one or two over the eight, boasting in a rather adolescent way about the power and influence of her ex-hubby and staring greedily at the mini mountain of dollar bills representing her initial supposed wage packet.
Other aspects of her Oprah appearance - lines like "'I was out of control with desperation" or "I was in the gutter at that moment" and - here we go - "now I have to move forward. I will beg for forgiveness" all have the power of a third-rate 1940s B-movie.
The Times quotes Oprah's description of Fergie as she appears on the News of the World video as a "spiritually, morally bankrupted person." And the Daily Telegraph concludes that "few people will change their opinion of her - as a dim, greedy Sloane, fatally addicted to the limelight."
The expected storm of red top moralizing though is surprisingly low key, apart from a few predictable snipes at her use of psycho babble. Perhaps they exhausted their bile in the first round.
A shrewd move?
The most interesting quotes, though, come from Fergie's so-called friends.
"She hasn't had this much publicity since she was married to Prince Andrew," says one. And even more revealingly: "She wants to assess what the reaction to her interview is before she makes any firm decisions. But it looks like she could return to America for work as early as next week."
And that's it of course, as another columnist pointed out earlier in the week.
"Americans love a good dose of contrition on their TV screens," the columnist wrote. "It appeals to their cultural ideal that all sinners can be redeemed."
So maybe Fergie doesn't give a fig any more for what we think of her in the UK. She has her children's books to sell, debts to pay and if, as rumor hath it, she's planning to make her home in America, maybe the Oprah performance is actually a shrewd move and she's not such a dumb redhead after all.
Author: Carol Allen
Editor: Sabina Casagrande