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Major Ferguson, 70, outside the family home, Dummer in Hampshire, where he has spent most of his life and from where he runs his prostate cancer support campaign

Princess Beatrice and Eugenie (pictured with their parents) are, he says, "tremendous - not the slightest bit spoilt"

 

On the afternoon of September 11, Major Ronald Ferguson was watching the horror of the World Trade Center attacks unfold on CNN when the phone rang. His daughter Sarah’s secretary had a message. “The Duchess has just rung and wants you to know she is perfectly safe,” she said. Major Ron, who is not fond of small talk, thanked her briefly and turned back to the disaster. It was much later when he discovered how close his second daughter had been to death.

Sarah Ferguson was running 15 minutes late for an appointment at the Manhattan office loaned to her by Cantor Fitzgerald. But for that delay, she would have been at her base on the 101st floor as the hijacked plane hit the north tower. Around 700 of the brokerage company’s employees, including two sisters seconded to help with her charity Children In Crisis, died that afternoon.

"I didn't know her schedule: only that she was in New York. I didn't realise until she spoke to me later how close she was," says Major Ferguson. "I was highly relieved for her and I knew she'd be putting her thoughts into what she could do for the families."

For the full interview with Major Ronald Ferguson as he speaks about his battle with cancer and his daughter's relationship with Prince Andrew, see this week's HELLO! magazine, on sale now.