There’s just something about the Sarah Ferguson scandal, and in 2010, she returned to the tabloid headlines when she was caught on-camera taking a bribe for access to Prince Andrew. This sordid, true story involving a suitcase of cash, a fake Sheik and a sting operation marks the lowest point yet for the once Royal (now only courtesy titled) Duchess of York. Some say money is the root of all evil, it certainly been at the heart of Sarah Ferguson’s many, many troubles.
The Sting. Britain’s popular tabloid, News of the World, has a reputation for embarrassing celebrities, in particular the Royal family. In May 2010, they sent undercover reporter, Mazher Mahmood, to pose as an Indian businessman hoping to gain access, for a fictional sheik to the Prince, who also works as the UK’s special trade representative. A film of the Duchess brokering the £500,000 deal, while enthusiastically beckoning for a suitcase with $40,000 in cash as a down payment was released to the public. The evidence was undeniable. Beyond the questionable morality of selling an introduction to your ex-husband, there was the sad portrait of this former princess declaring, “Do you understand that I absolutely have not a pot to piss in?"
Damage Control. Fergie and the Royal Family immediately issued statements assuring the public that Prince Andrew knew nothing about the deal. The Duke and Duchess of York divorced in 1996, but they have remained exceptionally close ever since, even sharing a residence for many of the intervening years, right up to the scandal. Once again, the onetime “breath of fresh air” to the House of Windsor was tarnishing the Prince’s public image. Sarah tried to further quell the embarrassment by issuing a public apology via the “Oprah” show, but her explanations of “little Sarah got lost along the way" and that she was "in the gutter at that moment" did little to improve her standing.
Money, Money, Money. With Winfrey, Sarah said it was desperation about money that had led her to take the bribe and by August 2010, rumors surfaced that she would declare bankruptcy in the neighborhood of 2 to 5 million pounds. Then, in March 2011, British newspapers reported that Prince Andrew had asked billionaire (and recently convicted pedophile) Jeffrey Epstein to help pay off some of Sarah’s debts. Though Andrew’s friends stated he gained no financial recompense, the public was left to wonder why the prince was brokering deals for his ex-wife. This time, Sarah, who promised to return the controversial “loan,” was only a small part of a torrent of bad publicity for Andrew, which included a Wikileaks cable description as “His Buffoon Highness” and associations with controversial political figures from the Middle East.
At the time of the Epstein revelations, Ferguson’s spokesperson stated, “She is now debt-free after coming to different arrangements with different creditors.” Only the future knows, if the fun loving Fergie has found a way to party within her means.