They had been the best of friends – supporting each other through the ups and downs of their troubled royal marriages – then the greatest of rivals. Sadly, they never made up their quarrel.
Despite Fergie’s pleading apologies and attempts to reconcile, Diana didn’t speak to her during the 12 months before the princess’ tragic and untimely death in August 1997. Afterwards, the heartbroken duchess said simply: “I really miss Diana. I loved her so much. She was one of the quickest wits I knew – nobody made me laugh like her. But because we were like siblings, we rowed.”
On the face of it, they were an odd pairing – ‘shy Di’ and loud, boisterous Fergie – but they hit it off from their first meeting at a polo match where Prince Charles was courting his bride-to-be.
Soon the young women were lunching together once a week, and Diana wasted no time promoting her friend’s marriage to Prince Andrew.
In those early days, they encouraged each other in silly pranks, from dressing up as police officers to gatecrash Andrew’s stag night at a London nightclub, to poking friends’ bottoms with their umbrellas at Royal Ascot.
Stuffy royal officials who had always regarded Sarah as ‘vulgar’ were appalled. The commoner daughter of the Queen’s polo manager – ‘not considered a gentleman’ – was not a fit and proper match for a prince.
But the press and public heralded ‘jolly’ Fergie as the ‘breath of fresh air’ the royal family needed.
And Diana, feeling isolated and unhappy, soon came to resent her sporty sister-in-law’s easy rapport with the Queen and Prince Philip.
The rot set in on a winter holiday, where expert skier Sarah sailed down the slopes while Diana moped indoors. “Why can’t you be more like Fergie?” chided Charles, sealing the wives’ rivalry.
Still, the princess and the duchess remained close confidantes as their marriages fell apart. Swapping secrets as they watched The Great Escape, they plotted in 1992 to leave their marriages at the same time. But all bets were off when Fergie was snapped in compromising holiday photographs with Steve Wyatt. Sarah and Andrew split up almost immediately.
Diana, always careful of her reputation, distanced herself from Fergie’s scandals and stayed put until her own separation later that year.
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