Catching Up with Sarah Ferguson
After divorcing Britain's Prince Andrew in 1996, Sarah Ferguson lost her Royal Highness designation—and had to figure how to live as an ex-princess in the modern world. Since then she has stepped up her charity work (Children in Crisis, which she founded in 1993, now helps educate kids in 10 nations), expanded her business ventures (products from candles to costume jewelry carry her name) and, 10 years on, remains a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. Still, says the duchess, 47, "being the mother [to Princesses Beatrice, 18, and Eugenie, 16] is the best thing I can safely say I can do." She spoke with PEOPLE's Allison Adato in New York City about juggling her many roles.
Emotionally, where were you after your divorce?
Broken. Broken heart. Broken self. Felt I'd betrayed everybody and let down the monarchy. And I'd been comfort-eating dreadfully. My mother left home when I was 12 to marry an Argentine. When she did, I started eating—I didn't dare tell Mum that I was sad or angry. My comfort food is food Mum used to cook for me, like soldiers and boiled eggs. We cut bread into strips—the soldiers—and dip them into the egg.
Do you cook?
No! Mummy burns the toast.
You travel for work and keep an office and apartment in New York. And in London, you live with your ex?
Andrew, yeah. It's Andrew's house; he was left it by his grandmother. I stay with the girls. When I'm there, we all sit round the table and eat together. Andrew and I believe in total parent unity. We're best friends, and the girls love it. Everybody says, "Why don't you get back together again?" Because we like the way things are. I want to write a book about divorce. It doesn't have to be acrimonious, not like so many people now.
Over here, two famous exes living together would be a reality show.
Complete reality show! The Family York. If we have boyfriends or girlfriends and it does have an effect [on them], Andrew and I both say, "Tough!" I'm not dating. I don't know if he is or not. Not my business—well, yes, I'd know. I'm sure it must be difficult for another person to see pictures of me [with him].
Have you met the girlfriends—Kate Middleton and Chelsy Davy—of Princes William and Harry?
No. They look very nice. Lovely ladies. Diana would have liked to see them.
Do you think of Diana often?
Yes. I miss her, her humor. When I watched that film The Queen the other day and looked at her ...
You saw The Queen? What did you think of it?
I thought Helen Mirren did a great job. The Queen is one of the finest ladies I've ever met in my life. I'm so honored to be able to say we are friends. I love her. She's given up her entire life to her country. [While watching] I sort of started beating myself up a bit, because I started thinking, "What a shame if I let her down in any way."
Did you cry?
No. I just wish that it had been slightly different. I flatter myself to think I caused her any upset. She's a great lady and a wonderful grandmother, full of humor.
When we see you picking up your daughters after their grandmother's 80th-birthday party, is it wrong to think you would like to have been invited?
It's obviously [the family's] choice. I would love to go. I'd love to have Christmas with my girls. They go [to their grandmother's] on the 22nd, and come back on the 27th, every year. I find it very difficult. It always seems to be goodbyes. If you're a little girl who thinks she ruined her parents' marriage, you always judge yourself. I've got to learn to forgive myself more. I'm learning.
You surprised some people by becoming a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. Did you expect to still be at it a decade later?
Absolutely not. I thought, "This is good, do a few commercials." I didn't realize I had to then do the program! I lost 55 lbs. and I've remained the same weight, up and down a few pounds, for the past seven years.
Beyond your Weight Watchers appearances, you travel a great deal for your charitable work.
What I do with Children in Crisis is go in and build schools. Right now we're working in Congo. Next I'm going to build latrines in Cameroon.
Literally, it's you with a hammer and nails?
Yes. I did that in Sierra Leone. In 1992 I slept on the street in Romania for three nights. I wanted to know what it was like [for homeless kids].
What was it like?
Your kids' books help fund the charities—do you still write?
Yes. I'm going to bring out an historical novel set in 1812. My hero is Lady Margaret, she's redheaded. It's Pride and Prejudice meets 24.
Rumor had you cast on Dancing with the Stars. True?
I'd love to learn to tango—but I don't have time!
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