Last month, with storm clouds gathering over Windsor as the Duke of York pinned his hopes on a US judge dismissing the sexual assault civil lawsuit against him, his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, was appearing on Italian TV.
Promoting her Mills & Boon novel Her Heart for a Compass, Fergie – as she is known after her birth name, Sarah Ferguson – was effusive in her praise for Prince Andrew. “I completely stand by Andrew 100%,” she told the talk show Porta a Porta.
The happiest day of her life, she continued, was her wedding day back in 1986, “when I married the best man in the world”.
As character witnesses go, this was gleaming testimony, especially coming from a woman who has been divorced from her husband for 25 years.
Today, permanently stripped of his military affiliations and royal patronages, banished from the official royal court, and facing an unforgiving legal battle to clear his name – which he has pledged to continue – there appear to be few Andrew can turn to for unconditional support.
But one who has remained steadfast throughout is his ex-wife.
Once described, by the duchess herself, as “the happiest divorced couple in the world”, the relationship between the duke and duchess is undoubtedly unconventional.
“Who knows what the relationship really is. It seems utterly bizarre,” said the royal author Penny Junor.
They still live together – when she is in the UK – at Royal Lodge, the grace-and-favour former home of the Queen Mother in Windsor, on which Andrew has a 75-year lease. After all, with its reported 30 rooms and 21 secluded acres, there is plenty of space. Though to call it her home, Ferguson told the Sunday Times last year, “would be presumptuous”.
They happily holidayed together with their daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, leading to constant speculation of reconciliation and remarriage – rumours that grew after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, said to be no fan of the duchess.
Asked directly in August on the ITV show Loose Women if a rekindling of romance was on the cards, she brushed it aside. “Oh, goodness me,” she responded, “you’re all fairytale, you’ve all got your wands out. Andrew and I remain steadfast, in the past we’ve been co-parenting and now we’re co-grandparenting.”
Junor said: “She has not just stood silently by his side. She actually speaks out in favour of him.”
The duke now seemed an isolated figure, added Junor. “He used to be a great partygoer. Those days do seem to be gone. He cuts a sad and lonely figure these days, I think. We see him out riding but always on his own. It’s the daughters I feel most sorry for, being caught up in all this. It must be really difficult for them.”
It is not the first storm the couple have ridden out together. They separated in 1992, months before photographs of the duchess having her toes sucked by her financial adviser John Bryan appeared on the front pages while she was at Balmoral with the Queen – an “excruciatingly embarrassing” moment, she has since said.
Then in 2010, the financially challenged duchess was caught in a sting by the now defunct News of the World, allegedly trying to sell an undercover journalist access to Andrew for £500,000, for which she was forced to issue an apology for her “serious lapse of judgment”.
In 2012, another grovelling apology for a “gigantic error of judgment on my behalf” followed revelations she had allowed the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to provide £15,000 to help pay off her debts.
To the Evening Standard, she spoke of her contrition and how her actions had “inadvertently impacted on the man I admire most in the world, the duke”. She would “throw myself under a bus for him”, she continued, and she was “not going to stand back and let him take any more abuse from any suggestion or implications of impropriety”.
Now Andrew is fighting for what is left of his reputation, already tarnished by his friendships with Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, who was recently convicted of charges relating to the recruitment and grooming of teenage girls for Epstein.
As he decides his next move to defend himself over claims – which he denies – by Virginia Giuffre that she was forced into having sex with him when she was 17 and had been trafficked by Epstein, one person he can count on, it seems, is his ex-wife.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )