Duchess of York Scandal: Queen in Crisis Talks With Prince Andrew

Royal watchers keeping eye on Sarah Ferguson's "fragile" mental state.

May 23, 2010, 7:54 PM

May 25, 2010 — -- Royal watchers are keeping a close eye on the Duchess of York's mental state as Britain's royal family launches into damage-control mode after the bribery scandal involving Prince Andrew.

Sarah Ferguson remains in the United States while Prince Andrew has begun crisis talks with his mother, the Queen.

"Just lay low. That's what she should do," Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown told "Good Morning America."

But that may be difficult for Britian's mouthiest ex-royal.

"It's hard for her," Brown said. Plus, "she genuinely has to earn a living somehow."

Ferguson, who was married to Andrew for 10 years, was caught on tape by British tabloid News of the World, offering access -- "open doors," she called it -- to the prince for more than $700,000.

She has apologized for her "lapse in judgment" and admitted that she was once again deep in debt.

"She will make it through this, unless she does something really stupid," Majesty magazine's Ingrid Seward told "Good Morning America."

"She's got her children. It's just that when you start thinking maybe your children are better off without you," she said, trailing off.

"I'm just suggesting that Fergie is a very emotional, fragile girl."

Her offer to provide access to Prince Andrew, a scandal some are calling the worst for the royal family in years, has earned her the ire of many in her home country.

"I don't have enough money, I don't know if you have enough money, no one has enough money," one U.K. resident said. "So, no, I have no sympathy for her whatsoever."

Seward said, "It's just unbelievable that someone of Fergie's intelligence could even consider getting involved in taking money from somebody."

Some observers are questioning whether Andrew truly had nothing to do with the plan, as both Ferguson's and Andrew's spokespeople have claimed.

"So many of those, quote, 'minor royals,' end up selling their access or their name," Brown said.

But Brown called Ferguson, 50, "hopeless" with money and noted the difference between her and her close friend Princess Diana. The two divorced their princes the same year, but "Princess Diana was canny and sharp. ... She played that marital game like poker."

By contrast, Ferguson seemed to be "intimidated" by royal lawyers, Brown said, and settled for a tiny sum in the hopes of staying in the family's good graces.

Sarah Ferguson: The 'Duchess of Debt'?

Ferguson, once considered a lively addition to the royal family, has long been a thorn in the Queen's side. During her marriage to Prince Andrew, a union that produced two princesses, Ferguson was photographed sunbathing topless, another man sucking on her toes.

The couple divorced in 1996 and Ferguson became mired in debt, eventually reinventing her financial and public image by becoming a children's book author and spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.

Ferguson collected a charity award in Los Angeles Sunday and will be in New York today for a book event.

Ferguson admitted last year to being roughly $889,000 in debt after the collapse of her U.S.-based lifestyle company, Hartmoor. The loss led some in the British press to dub her the "Duchess of Debt."

Royal historian Robert Lacey said Ferguson only gets about $20,000 a year from her divorce settlement with Prince Andrew, compared to the $20 million settlement Princess Diana got when she divorced Prince Charles.

"I think she should have had different divorce lawyers and she's had to struggle with that ever since," he said.

While Ferguson was caught red-handed, Lacey said he doubts it will irreperably harm her in the long run.

"She's been a wonderful mother and she's also been a great source of delight to us royal watchers," he said. "I think she's going to be back."

In her 1996 memoir, Ferguson wrote about what she perceived as her shortcomings as a royal.

"Even at my dizzy height of popularity, I knew the clock would strike 12 and I'd be seen for what I was: unworthy, unattractive, unaccomplished. And finally, logically, undone," she wrote.

The same year her memoir was released, as she was divorcing Prince Andrew, British tabloids were abuzz with the news that she owed more than $4 million to British bankers Coutts and Co. and that the royal family, specifically Queen Elizabeth II, was fed up with Ferguson's free-spending ways and refused to pay her bills.

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