Imagine, for a horrible moment, that you are in Prince Andrew’s inner circle. You were a firsthand witness to all the lies, swagger, and intimidation that Andrew put out into the world after being credibly accused of sexual assault. You saw his reputation crater with his settlement, doubling as a tacit admission of guilt, and the subsequent freezing out by his entire family. You know that you will forever be tarred with the same brush as him. And, deep down, you know that the only way to avoid any sort of trouble is to lay as low as possible for the rest of your life.
With all this in mind, the last action you might consider would be to blow millions of dollars on a new house, especially if you have just pleaded poverty in public. But, hey, you aren’t Sarah Ferguson.
Last week it emerged that Ferguson had purchased a grand Mayfair house, said to be worth $6.1 million, from her friend the Duke of Westminster. The town house, according to The Sun, is currently separated into two apartments, although Ferguson is understood to be converting it into a single residence, apparently in order to rent it out. Which is all well and good, save for one uncomfortable fact: not long ago, Ferguson and Andrew wheedled out of an enormous property bill by claiming to be penniless.
French socialite Isabelle de Rouvre is currently raging to the press, since the cost of the Mayfair home happens to be not much less than the amount Andrew and Ferguson owed her following a dispute over a sprawling Verbier chalet. The pair bought the chalet from her for $22.5 million in 2014 with a multi-million-dollar mortgage, but failed to pay her the rest of the sum. With interest, this left de Rouvre on the hook for a reported $8.4 million. At the time, de Rouvre assumed that, thanks to the reported $12 million Andrew had just agreed to pay his accuser, Virginia Giuffre, the pair were virtually penniless, and simply wanted whatever she could get.
Now, though, she is spitting mad. “I understood they didn’t have the money and believed he would be going to prison in America so I thought it best to get what I could,” she told The Sunday Times last week, after news of the Mayfair purchase went public. “I am outraged that I am now told she has spent millions on another property. It is just incredible and the whole story unbelievable. It is a dirty story as far as I am concerned.”
Could Andrew sell the chalet to claw back some of the cash? Well, he’s trying. But unfortunately the chalet was frozen as an asset by Swiss authorities two years ago, thanks to yet another unpaid bill, this time for $1.9 million owed to an eerily anonymous couple with whom Andrew had apparently entered into a business arrangement.
To make matters worse, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Ferguson’s craftiness. In 2007, she and Andrew raised eyebrows when they sold their home Sunninghill Park—which had previously languished on the property market for five years—to a Kazakh oligarch who reportedly paid $3.65 million over the asking price yet never moved in. Then, in 2011, her debts helped to nudge the issue of Andrew’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein back into the spotlight, after it was revealed that Epstein had loaned her $24,000 to cover the unpaid salary of her former personal assistant.
And then there is the monumental deluge of her side hustles. It has been hinted in the press that Ferguson bought the Mayfair property with her literary royalties. Her Mills & Boon debut, Her Heart for a Compass, became a Sunday Times best-seller upon its release last year, and in May she signed a whopping 22-book deal with the Australian publisher Serenity Press.
“I understood they didn’t have the money and believed he would be going to prison in America so I thought it best to get what I could.”
However, despite being released in paperback only months ago, Her Heart for a Compass now sits at a lowly 14,000 on the U.K. Amazon best-sellers list (outsold by 60 different Scottish historical romance novels). Meanwhile, for all its splashy announcements, Serenity Press is a bizarre independent imprint with roots in vanity publishing, and almost certainly doesn’t have mansion money to chuck around.
Where else could the money have come from? Chances are not the Duchess Collection, Ferguson’s berserk online gift shop, which sells “products inspired by The Duchess’s creative vision,” including tea bags that retail for seven times what a box of English breakfast tea from Twinings costs. And it’s very unlikely that her deal to sell monumentally ugly $2,000 fountain pens was enough of a success for her to relocate. She’s also a YouTuber now, reading children’s books daily in the manner of someone who has fully lost her mind from a total lack of social contact. But if that’s enough to secure yourself a mansion in Mayfair, we are all clearly in the wrong job.
So where did Sarah Ferguson find the money for her new house? The answer is still unclear, but, with de Rouvre on the warpath about all her missing millions, it should be only a matter of time before we find out. After all, hell hath no fury like a French socialite scorned.
Stuart Heritage is a Kent, U.K.–based Writer at Large for AIR MAIL and the author of Bedtime Stories for Worried Liberals