Prince Charles Urged Princess Diana to Act More Like Sarah Ferguson, Leading to ‘Unmitigated Disaster,’ Biographer Says

Trying to act like someone you’re not is never a good plan. But when your husband is the one encouraging the behavior? That’s a recipe for disaster.

Princess Diana was far from thrilled when Prince Charles suggested that she act happier even though she was feeling anything but. His comments spurred even more self-doubt in the young Princess of Wales, who never felt she fully had her husband’s attraction or affection.

His comments aren’t surprising now that we know how disastrously their marriage imploded. But they were still uncalled for.

Prince Charles, Sarah Ferguson, and Princess Diana
Prince Charles, Sarah Ferguson, and Princess Diana | Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Princess Diana was miserable with Prince Charles from the start

From outward appearances, Diana made the perfect bride for Prince Charles: she was virginal, beautiful, and from a proper aristocratic family. The royals figured they could mold her into the sort of queen their people deserved.

However, the senior royals who helped push Charles and Diana together underestimated her ability to express herself. When Diana was miserable, she did not try to hide it — even if she was in public. And she was sad from the get-go. The Princess of Wales knew well that Charles was still in love with Camilla and that she’d never have his heart.

Sarah Ferguson was a more natural fit with the royal family

Princess Diana with Sarah Ferguson
Princess Diana with Sarah Ferguson | Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

Everyone could see Diana was shy, uncomfortable, and unhappy. In comparison, Prince Andrew’s wife Sarah, Duchess of York had a very different outlook and countenance.

As Diana explained to biographer Andrew Morton, Fergie’s easy good humor made her jealous. She said the Duchess of York, “wooed everybody in this family and did it so well. She left me looking like dirt.”

Adding insult to injury, she recounted how Prince Charles said to her, “I wish you would be like Fergie–all jolly.”

Diana’s attempts to appease Prince Charles did not work

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prince Charles and Princess Diana | Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

She may have been angry with Charles, but Diana was also desperate for his love, even if it meant trying to mimic a person who was nothing like herself. Looking back on the events later Diana realized that pretending to feel a certain way and lying only damaged herself.

Diana told Morton that on the day she realized her marriage was doomed, she also regretted trying to be another happy-go-lucky, boisterous person like Fergie was. “[Charles’s] hostile indifference made thoughts of starting afresh completely unrealistic,” Morton said, according to Express.

“She had tried to conform to everything he wanted but her efforts at copying the behavior of the Duchess of York, whom Prince Charles so admired, had been an unmitigated disaster.”

Fergie and Diana had a falling out

Diana and Fergie
The Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York | Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Though they were fourth cousins and frequent confidantes, especially when they were both going through divorces to royal men at the same time, Fergie and Diana ultimately had a fight and stopped speaking to each other. Unfortunately, they did not reconcile before Diana’s tragic death in 1997.

Fergie insists she doesn’t remember why they were estranged. Rumors swirl that it was because of some unpleasant revelations in Fergie’s autobiography, My Story.

Could there also have been some residual resentment on Diana’s side over people like Prince Charles preferring Fergie’s personality? It’s a real possibility.