Sarah Ferguson Refused to Attend Princess Diana’s 10th Anniversary Memorial Service

Though it’s not often discussed now, Princess Diana and Sarah, Duchess of York were once very close. The women were fourth cousins who’d grown up together. Though they lost touch for a time, when the princess was gearing up to marry Prince Charles, they became quite close once again, with Princess Diana eventually introducing Prince Andrew to the duchess.

The Duchess of York has often spoken about how much she adored her friend. In fact, Princess Diana was a guiding light for the duchess when she entered into the British royal family. Though the royals seemed to embrace the duchess more than the princess, eventually the two women bonded over their chronically unhappy marriages.

Still, at the end of Princess Diana’s life, the women had a falling out that they never were able to repair. Unfortunately, the duchess relationship with the royal family also deteriorated so much so that she did not attend Princess Diana’s 10th-anniversary memorial service.

Princess Diana And The Duchess Of York Stand Together As They Watch A Polo Match In Windsor, Berkshire
Princess Diana And The Duchess Of York Stand Together As They Watch A Polo Match In Windsor, Berkshire | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson were not speaking when the princess died

By the mid-90s, Princess Diana and the Duchess of York were no longer speaking. During their time within the royal family, there had always been a bit of a rivalry between the women. Princess Diana told biographer Andrew Morton, that the Duchess of York “wooed everybody in this family and did it so well. She left me looking like dirt.” She even said that her ex-husband Prince Charles told her, “I wish you would be like Fergie—all jolly.”

However, their true falling out came as a result of the duchess’ autobiography, My Story: Sarah Duchess of York. In the book, the duchess wrote that the princess had generously given her several pairs of shoes, “and less happily her plantar warts.”  Clearly Princess Diana did not find this amusing.

“Because we were like siblings… we rowed,” the duchess told Harper’s Bazaar after Princess Diana’s death. “And the saddest thing, at the end, we hadn’t spoken for a year.”

Sarah Ferguson has a strained relationship with the British royal family

By the time the duchess and Prince Andrew divorced in 1996, the Duchess of York was already being shunned by the royal family. In 1992, the duchess was photographed topless with oil tycoon, John Bryan. Bryan was also sucking her toes in the pictures.

Prince Charles reportedly still isn’t fond of the duchess.  “It’s stupid to say that the Duke of Edinburgh has any issue with Andrew and Fergie’s relationship,” an insider told The Sun. “He really doesn’t care anymore, on any level. He stands in for Prince Philip every now and then since his retirement but the truth is his official role as the Duke of York is severely limited. The Queen is relaxed because of her personal affection towards Fergie, despite the Duchess’s previous bad behavior. Charles is not OK with Fergie. He can’t stand her in reality.”

The Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour ceremony, June 1991. The Princess is wearing a Catherine Walker suit and Philip Somerville hat.
The Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour ceremony, June 1991. The Princess is wearing a Catherine Walker suit and Philip Somerville hat. | Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Sarah Ferguson refused to attend Princess Diana’s memorial service

By 2007, the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, things were still strained between the duchess and the royals. So much so, that the duchess did not attend the memorial service.

“She had not been on a royal guestlist for some years and it has been made clear that the family do not want her to attend royal events,” a friend of the duchess’ told Daily Mail at the time. “She has been excluded from many family events and it makes her feel uncomfortable on such occasions. She understands that and it made it easier for her to come to the decision to stay away. Even though she was one of Diana’s closest friends within the Royal Family and not a day goes by when she does not think about Diana, she has turned down the invitation. She was grateful to be asked but feels it would not be right to go to it.”