Sarah Ferguson was left facing an increasing amount of scrutiny since her relationship with Prince Andrew became public knowledge in 1985. The Duchess of York would later come under fire because of her allegedly “work-shy” approach to her duties as a member of the Royal Family. According to Glynis Barber, the narrator of Channel 5’s documentary ‘Beatrice and Eugenie: Pampered Princesses?’, said: “Fergie came in for a huge amount of criticism for her lifestyle, her fashion, and what the tabloids called her work-shy attitude, nicknaming her ‘Her Royal Idleness’.
“All attacks her daughters would, one day, have to endure.”
While Sarah and Prince Andrew enjoyed support for their relationship earlier on, criticism soon hit them as they began to take on official engagements on behalf of the Queen.
One of the couple’s first tours to the United States saw the Duke and Duchess of York receive negative reviews, with the visit branded a “brash, vulgar, excessive, weak-humoured exhibition by two royals”.
Lizzie Cundy, a friend of Fergie, told the documentary: “There was a time where she could do no right with the press.
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“Sarah would come in gung-ho maybe not in the right outfit, maybe staying sometimes the wrong thing. And the press started to pick on her.”
The Duchess faced widespread criticism over her love for holidays and her jet-setting life, with additional backlash after a 1989 scorecard showed Fergie had carried out only 55 engagements throughout the previous year.
Despite having been welcomed as a “breath of fresh air” for the monarchy, a News of the World Poll carried out at the end of the 1980s found 37 percent of respondents had deemed Fergie not worth the nearly £400,000 she and Andrew received from the royal purse.
Buckingham Palace attempted to put an end to the commentary, pointing out the Duchess of York had given birth to her first child, Princess Beatrice, in August 1988 and could not have been expected to be as active as other members of the Royal Family.
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But Beatrice became the centre of another dispute with the public after the Duke and Duchess of York chose to leave the newborn princess at home as they jetted off to Australia for a series of engagements and a holiday.
In addition to the ongoing negativity, Sarah Ferguson had also been coping with the constant absence of Prince Andrew, who had been serving in the Royal Navy and rarely being able to spend time with the family.
Speculation about the couple’s relationship had begun as early as 1991, and they ultimately announced their separation in October 1992.
The Palace announced Fergie would be no longer expected to carry out official duties and the Queen confirmed she would not be responsible for any debt Fergie had incurred in.
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Fergie and Prince Andrew officialised their divorce in 1996, and Sarah initially was granted permission to continue styling herself as Her Royal Highness Sarah, Duchess of York.
But a letters patent in August of the same year removed the HRH and she has since been styled as other divorced members of the Royal Family.
The Duke and Duchess of York shared guardianship of their daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, often holidaying together and sharing Prince Andrew’s home at Royal Lodge in Windsor.
Despite the divorce, Fergie still attended some royal functions with her daughters.