The duchess and the donut

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Last week's full moon. Photo: JH.

Monday, March 13, 2023. Fair weather in New York yesterday with temps in the low 40s. Snowfall predicted but with a Full Moon (or nearly) beautiful, lighting the night sky over the city.

Sarah Ferguson, duchess of York had recently been in town plugging her new book, a novel titled A Most Intriguing Lady — described as a sweeping, romantic, compulsively readable historical saga about a Duke’s daughter. Can’t-put-it-downable. The duchess certainly has the background and experience right there at the top to write such a tale. And of course you’ll be wondering who the characters are/were in real life.

Sarah’s latest.

The author has spent a bit of time here as Andrew’s ex-wife. A few years ago, Daisy Soros had a reception for her although I don’t recall the reason – maybe to introduce the lady around. She’s a very likable woman and very relatable; naturally congenial. At that time she was being very industrious also, making a new life for herself. I never happened to follow the breakup of that marriage. I’ve never met the Prince (knowing nothing about their relationship) but I thought he’d never find another to match his loss.

And if you follow these affairs instead of the hard news that affects us all, you’ve learned that Sarah and Andrew are now very much together, even living under the same roof.

She told some reporter that she is basically looking after him, in concern and sympathy for his royal plight, speaking of titles and allowances and the comforts he’s grown used to since the day he was born in 1960. Which wasn’t his fault, landing as Number 2 a/k/a The Spare in that family. Reading about his situation, I could only think he’s now got the best thing he ever had, and she’s back, with Common Sense and caring.

The whole story, nevertheless is associated with the Prince’s fatal misfortune of having known the late or not-so-late Jeffrey Epstein.

However, yesterday, I was going through some files when I came upon a Diary I wrote about the duchess back in 2011. Although they had been divorced for over almost 15 years, she was making her way in life. Her feelings were still raw and she wasn’t one to be bitter but she openly discussed how she was feeling about her loss and his loss.

She spoke with natural finality about the marriage. However, we can now see that 12 years later, she has returned and put all of that behind her. It is definitely good news for the Prince, who could use a little good news to go with his good ex-wife. You can file it under Hope.

The original Diary:

Among the most blaring headlines in London this morning were about poor Sarah Ferguson, duchess of York, former wife of HRH Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who either directly or indirectly accepted 15,000 pounds (or approximately $25,000) as a gift or a loan from Jeffrey Epstein, the very rich American businessman who was recently served a jail sentence on pedophilia and sexual abuse charges. Had Mr. Epstein not had the criminal mark on his page, this matter would have been ordinary. Many friends who are rich often “help out” friends in financial distress. Many do not also, incidentally. I say this from personal experience in both cases.

Sarah Ferguson, duchess of York around the time of her “cash crunch,” according to the London tabloids. Photograph by Patrick McMullan.

The duchess’ problem is she doesn’t seem to know how to budget her money. Know anybody else like that? One might call her flaky when it comes to the dough, if you’ll pardon the pun, but there is nothing unusual among us humanoids about that lack of financial discipline or flakiness. Or being broke.

Many people reading these words know exactly what it’s like because they’ve been there, or are there, or are going there. If you look at the US economy today and the way it is managed by the financial geniuses in government and the titans of Wall Street, you will see many others who bear these same flaky (to put it politely) characteristics and practice their shortcomings and dumb downs in public and on the public.

If that sounds like I’m defending Sarah the Duchess of York, I am. It’s evidently time that Sarah get her act together and start living within her means, however mean or unmean they might be, for her own peace of mind. But otherwise, it’s a bummer being in debt. All of those who ever have been know the feeling and how deeply depressing it is. And, it’s not like we do it in order to hurt others or make our own lives miserable.

In the case of Mrs. York, former daughter-in-law of the Queen, she is merely experiencing what it’s like to be cut loose from a wealthy family. She’s not very good at handling the financial part of it. You could almost say it’s not fair. Although unlike a lot of husbands who divorce their wives and rob them of their dignity at the same time, Prince Andrew has been a pretty good fellow when it comes to getting along with and looking after the welfare of his former wife and mother of his children. This is a mark of honor — even if that mark is written in the debit column of his life.

The question unanswered in this mindless scandal is: what does Epstein’s pedophilia charges have to do with giving money to a friend, even if the friend is the Duke of York or the Duchess of York. If he weren’t an accused pedophile, would we care if it appeared that he was “buying” rich powerful friends? Probably not.

We’re very hypocritical about money and manners (including morals). We all know what rich is and what it can get; yet we are preternaturally unaware that money changes the way we see things, and especially the way we see ourselves. We all know someone who once upon a time came from nothing and now is rich and different. Well …

Jeffrey Epstein, way back when. Photograph by Patrick McMullan.

I’ve had a lot of calls from media asking me what I know about Mr. Epstein and had I ever met him. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him and I know very little about him except what’s printed about his interests, which up until recently were known mainly as “financial.” He’s never been an “out there” player in New York social life. That is not to say he doesn’t know a lot of social and important people.

From the little we know of him (his association with former President Clinton, for example, and Prince Andrew), he is a man who cultivates relationships with important people. This is not unusual. This is always done for one of two reasons, often interchangeable: Ego and The Possibility of Making More Money. Period. It is no more dishonorable than women marrying for money. And it is ordinary.

For years Mr. Epstein’s name and reputation were intimately associated with Leslie Wexner, the Midwestern retailing tycoon. So intense did their relationship appear to those who knew them — and especially since they were both unmarried — that it was often assumed by many that they were lovers.

Then a number of years ago, Mr. Wexner up and married and started a family and that rumor evaporated. It was always assumed thereafter that Mr. Epstein was some kind of financial genius who looked after the investments of his employer Mr. Wexner. Later it was rumored that he looked after the investments of other very rich powerful men across the world.

Men who are entrusted with the money of very rich men are usually highly regarded when it comes to their stated abilities. That is their cachet in life. There is no moral compass that shows the way when it comes to a rich man investing his money. There is no reason for it. More is more and less is less. When you are rich, as it is when you are living paycheck to paycheck, more is better.

The British royals, especially the Queen’s immediate family, are in many ways isolated from the rest of us with all those rules that precede them; the bowing and curtsying, the ma’am-ing and sir-ing, laying out a field of pretense of regal superiority. But as it is with money, once the pretension becomes part of the lifestyle, it’s hard to shake, and no one really asks for justification. Instead it’s called tradition.

Prince Andrew — keeping his head down. Photograph by Patrick McMullan.

It’s not their fault. They don’t know any better. If Andrew’s mother weren’t the Queen Elizabeth II, if he were only an ordinary duke instead of a royal duke, he never would have had this trouble in the first place. He might have had a wife who always needed to be bailed out. And he might have more than a few friends that wanted to wine and dine and yacht and fly him. But he’d probably be regarded by many of his social peers and sycophants as a smart guy, forging relationships with financial hotshots like Jeffrey Epstein and political dictators’ sons — like Sakher El Materi, the son-in-law of deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Until, of course, the Great Fall.

The duke has a government appointed role to help broker deals for British businessmen overseas. That means he’s dealing with all types, few of whom would be described or thought of as Squeaky Clean. Talk about strolling through a field of landmines.

But he’s not just a duke. He’s His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. Overprivileged, overfed, overcoddled, and cast in the role of ambidextrously — if not so skillfully — navigating a sea of financial (and potentially corruptive) influences just to make a (damned good) living and help the realm of the Sovereign.

The way we live now, is what it’s called. Prince Andrew is just trying to pay his own way (wealthily of course, for what is a royal prince to do). And Sarah Ferguson is just trying to get by as an ex-British royal, still duchess with a few more years (but not that many) of youthfulness left. And Jeffrey Epstein … will remain the mystery and enigma he’s been all along, for reasons having to do with … money. Not sex.

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