Sarah Ferguson has made her mark in the world, yet this International Women’s Day, the Duchess of York shares the special female royals who have personally touched her heart.
Sarah Ferguson knows first hand the benefits and challenges of being a female member of the royal family. And for International Women's Day, the Duchess of York is shining a light on the special female royals who have personally touched her heart.
The Duchess tells of the invaluable life lesson Princess Diana taught her and her own unbreakable bond with the late Queen. Of course Sarah is incredibly proud too of her daughters, Princess Eugenie who is pregnant with her second child, and Princess Beatrice.
Months before becoming a grandmother again, Sarah tells HELLO! that she is most proud of her daughters being such fantastic mums. "I'm often asked whether I am a proud grandmother, and of course I adore my grandchildren, but what I’m most proud of is that my daughters have turned out to be such wonderful mothers," she says.
Sarah is proud of her daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie
Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice have followed in their mother's kind footsteps. The 63-year-old set up her charity Sarah’s Trust to empower women everywhere. The mission of the charity is to be a voice and ambassador for forgotten women, children, families and communities around the world. And over the years Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice have been incredibly devoted to their own charitable work, teaming up with their mum as honorary patrons of the Teenage Cancer Trust, as well as pursuing their own charitable endeavours.
Sarah, Duchess of York speaks openly about what life has taught her, the women who inspire her and why she never gives up…
How have the women in the royal family shaped your life?
"The Queen was obviously the biggest influence; it was the privilege of my life to have her as my mother-in-law. She was the most extraordinary example of duty, loyalty and steadfastness both as head of state and as a private individual. As I have said before, I will always be grateful that she stayed close to me even after my divorce. I miss her hugely.
The Queen had a huge influence
"My friend Princess Diana taught me a great deal about how to deal with the press, but it is really through time and experience that I have come to understand that publicity can serve in a positive as well as a negative way, giving me a voice to talk about the causes closest to my heart."
Sarah and Princess Diana were great friends
What is it about your daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie that makes you most proud?
"They are strong, independent women with their own careers. They are well-adjusted, level-headed women who like me, want to make a difference in other people's lives. I'm often asked whether I am a proud grandmother, and of course I adore my grandchildren, but what I'm most proud of is that my daughters have turned out to be such wonderful mothers."
What has been the most important advice you have given your daughters?
"We have three words that we live by: communicate, compromise, compassion."
What is really special about your close mother-daughter bond with your daughters?
"Our relationship is founded on honesty. My daughters know that I will always tell them the truth, and that means we have no fear in our relationship. It is grounded in trust and of course, a deep bond of love."
What is a positive message you would like to share with women everywhere on International Women's Day?
"The same words I use to my girls: communicate, compromise, compassion. Be honest. Listen to your heart, the voice inside you that flickers like a small flame. Have confidence in it and make it spark into a bright, shining light."
Sarah is delighted with the news that her daughter Princess Eugenie is pregnant
How has being a mum been a positive impact on your life and played an important role?
"I was very lonely as a child, and my ponies Spider, Pasha and Herbert were my best friends. I used to make up endless stories about my ponies, so when I had my daughters I had a huge stock ready-made to tell them. It is those stories, told to Beatrice and Eugenie at the end of a long day, that were the basis of my Little Red children's books, and it is the memory of my daughters’ eager faces begging for more and more stories that inspired me to write so many books for children.
WATCH: Sarah Ferguson opens up about the 'best job in the world', being a mum to her daughters...
"One of my biggest successes, and one of my favourite things too, is reading children's stories on my YouTube channel, Storytime with Fergie and Friends, which was originally set up during the pandemic, but which has gone from strength to strength since. There are so many wonderful stories for children out there, but it is such a competitive market, many of them get lost in the crush or don't make the books shelves. I'd like to think that Fergie and Friends gives a voice to a wide variety of stories, allows children and parents to discover new books, and allows me, in my own way, to support fellow authors."
What makes you feel most empowered as a woman and why?
"I never give up. Despite all my travails, I have learned that I am a survivor, and lately this has inspired me to try so many new things. I've also learned that you are never too old to tackle new ventures, and whether you succeed or not, it is the trying that is empowering. Working with Mills&Boon has given me a new voice. Romance is one of the biggest selling fictional genres, and it went from strength to strength during the pandemic.
A Most Intriguing Lady: A Novel by Sarah Ferguson, from £7.49 / $21.62 (or free on Audible), Amazon
"Romances are written almost exclusively by women; most of the editorial staff are women; most of the readers are women – though this is something I would love to see change. Being part of this big romance community has been a revelation to me. It is a kind, supportive and celebratory community, and I am honoured to be part of it."
How do you celebrate other women and their successes in your life?
"Sarah's Trust is all about helping and empowering women and their families. I would like to think I lead by example in a very practical way: getting my sleeves rolled up and getting on with things when they need done; sitting down and celebrating successes with a cup of tea, a hug and a good chat at the end of the day.
"In my fiction I celebrate the invisible women of history. Lady Margaret, heroine of Her Heart for a Compass, comes from a long line of high-achieving, much-lauded men, but we know very little about her. Of her sister Lady Mary, heroine of A Most Intriguing Lady, we know even less. I have imagined much of their story, but it is my way of putting them, and others like them, on the map."
Sarah is an inspirational writer and novelist
Credit: Debbie Hare Photography
Why do you think we should celebrate International Women's Day?
"Women continue to be under-estimated and under-valued in today's society. I have been inspired by a book called Half the Sky, which argues that the oppression of women worldwide is the paramount moral challenge of our era. Across the world, there are millions of brave, strong women striving for independence. International Women’s Day reminds them that they are not alone.
"For me, it is also about celebrating female relationships of every kind. The complex and sometimes fragile bond between mothers and daughters in particular is something I explore in both my novels. Women are often slow to recognise their own strengths, we are often too modest and unassuming. International Women's Day allows us to celebrate, and even blow our own trumpets a little."
What do you feel have been your biggest achievements and why?
"I much prefer to look forward rather than back. I strongly believe that you are never too old to tackle new challenges. In 2020, the year I turned sixty, I wrote Her Heart for a Compass, my first novel with Marguerite Kaye. In March this year, our second novel, A Most Intriguing Lady, will be released. In addition to launching a new career as an author of adult fiction, in the same year I established my charity Sarah's Trust, to work with philanthropists and charities to support forgotten women, children, families and communities around the world.
"I had long wanted to bring my philanthropic work under one roof and I'm proud of the work we have done to help Ukrainian refugees. I am also very honoured to be the Chair of the International Montessori Ambassadors Group, and my charity’s most recent initiative is working with the Educational Fund for the Future which I have cofounded with Montessori. I am really excited about this as it's a cause extremely close to my heart. It's not entirely coincidental that my fictional heroine, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott from Her Heart for a Compass, threw herself into a very similar cause."
Who is the woman or women who inspire you most and why?
"There are so many women who have inspired me at different points in my life, women in history in particular, who have struggled against the constraints of convention to find a purpose, and to make a difference. In my work with Montessori, there are two women who are very much on my mind. Maria Montessori broke the mould in so many ways. In 1890 she was one of the first women to attend medical school in Italy. Her views on early education, focusing on the child's needs, their physical and mental health, were radical and well ahead of her time.
"Suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst was a fierce advocate of rights for the poor in society. Another radical woman with the heart of a lioness, she was practical, tireless and fearless in her efforts to support women in the East End of London. Through the East London Federation of Suffragists she helped establish schemes to provide free milk, baby-weighing and daily professional medical assistance to help these women support and feed their undernourished families. They set up a nursery based on Montessori principles. The ELF also set up factories to make toys, boots and clothing, employing women on wages equivalent to those paid to men at the time.
Sylvia Pankhurst is an inspiration to Sarah
"Both Maria Montessori and Sylvia Pankhurst fought to educate and empower women, to give them the means to support themselves and their families. Sadly this is still something many women all over the world struggle to do. It is the women on the ground, trying to make this happen today, who most inspire me on a daily basis. Women who never give up no matter how often they are told, it can't be done, a trait I share, and a quality also shared by both my fictional heroines, Lady Margaret and Lady Mary."
What advice would you give to your younger self now and women everywhere who look up to you?
"Dare to speak out. Be honest. Try new things. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Be true and authentic to yourself, and have confidence in who that person is. Follow your heart."
Sarah leads by example in championing women
How important do you think female friendships are and how do they play an important role in your life?
"When Mills&Boon brought Marguerite Kaye and I together to write Her Heart for a Compass, though we both knew it was vital that we got along, we neither of us expected such a strong friendship to blossom between us. We call the way we work 'collaborwriting' and working with Marguerite through the pandemic on our first book was such a liberating experience. We are incredibly honest with each other, we understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we trust each other implicitly. This is true friendship: support, trust, honesty and affection, and it seems to me to be the essence of what International Women’s Day is all about."
What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman and how have you overcome it?
"Being taken seriously as a person with a lot to offer. I battle daily with believing in myself, but it's a battle I truly do feel now that I’m winning – as Lady Margaret says, onwards and upwards. I am an author. I've written a Sunday Times best seller and I have every confidence that my new novel with Marguerite will fare even better. The more I write the more confident I get and I am thrilled to be able to embark on a new career in my sixties. I have learned to fight for what I believe in, to follow my heart, supporting charities and causes that resonate with me, and speaking out in an authentic voice."
Main photograph: Debbie Hare Photography
MORE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY:
Michelle Obama's 10 most powerful quotes
Kate Moss reveals her life lessons and special way she uplifts women
Elizabeth Hurley reveals how motherhood transformed her life
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