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Arrival of Fun-Loving Fergie Forever Changed Diana's Life


July 02, 1992|Nicholas Davies

In just two years, from 1984 to 1986, Princess Diana dramatically transformed herself from a shy, awkward young princess into a confident, dashing young woman who would win praise from fashion experts around the world for her poise, elegance and style.

It was almost certainly the arrival of Sarah Ferguson on the royal scene that gave Diana a radically different perspective on life.

Fergie's confidence began to rub off on Diana. More important, she helped Diana to relax and enjoy herself for the first time in her married life. Fergie had always had fun, whether at school, parties, balls, dinner parties or restaurants. She enjoyed life to the fullest and decided nothing was going to change because she was to marry a prince.

Her zest for life was infectious. Diana started to love the excitement and stimulation Fergie brought to her life.

Because of her friendship with brash, effervescent Fergie, at a time when she was beginning to see that her once adored husband was not perfect and could not give her everything she craved, Diana reached a turning point in her life. She had Fergie to thank for the change in her attitude toward her husband and her way of life--a change which was to shake and almost undermine her marriage, worry the queen and alarm the royal advisers.

Fergie's existence made Diana do some hard thinking. She envied her friend's independence and realized that she, too, had a life of her own to lead. Her youth was slipping by. She had met Charles when she was very young, and hardly had time to enjoy the carefree teen-age years before she was saddled with the yoke of royal protocol.

Diana began to realize that the time had come for her to start enjoying life. She was 25 years old and needed to cast aside her feelings of immaturity and nervousness.

Fergie introduced her to a younger set of women who brought along their boyfriends. These young men were perhaps five or 10 years younger than Charles, and Diana realized that she was enjoying herself in their company. There was no heavy conversation that she couldn't understand, as there so often was at Kensington Palace dinner parties. These people made no demands on her intellect; she could just chat away about trivia. Nobody took anything very seriously. Diana could now act like a young woman. She could laugh and have the type of fun she had all but forgotten was possible after her marriage into the royal family five years earlier. And she could crack her own little jokes and get a laugh in return, instead of the icy looks from around the royal dinner table that often greeted her attempts to lighten the conversation.

These young men and women were full of vitality. Their dinner parties were noisy, funny and argumentative, so different from the boring, protocol-ridden dinner parties Diana had become used to with Charles and his conservative friends.

It was Fergie who brought Diana back out into the world she had once enjoyed. Fergie and Prince Andrew loved to go out together to cocktail or dinner parties and joke around, even drink a little too much. One reason Andrew was attracted to Fergie was that she always seemed to enjoy life and have a smile on her face.

At one evening cocktail party in the summer of 1985, Diana, Andrew, Fergie and 20 or so other young people had gathered. The evening was going swimmingly when the phone rang. It was the queen.

The hostess shouted, "Andrew, it's your mother on the phone."

"What the hell does she want?" he asked in a loud voice.

"I don't know. I'll ask," came the reply.

A second or two later the hostess shouted, "She wants to know whether you will be home for dinner tonight."

Andrew called to her above the noise of the conversation, "Tell her no. I'm out enjoying myself."

He turned to the group around him, which included Diana and Fergie, and said, "If she thinks I'm going back to a boring old dinner at the palace she's in for a shock." Diana roared with laughter.

Diana started to enjoy alcoholic drinks, something she'd rarely done before. She started to unbend and forget the rules of etiquette which had been drummed into her by Charles and the royal advisers. She cast off her inhibitions and behaved like a normal, decidedly unroyal, person. She was no longer confined by the restrictions and protocol of Kensington Palace, and the need to keep up appearances in front of the staff.

The more she socialized with her new set of friends, the more she realized the difference between her husband and the dashing young men she met. She realized she had far more in common with these young profligates, whose idea of a good time was to laugh boisterously and throw bread rolls at each other in a restaurant or drink too much bubbly. Anything but serious conversation.

Charles and Diana started having more rows. Diana was determined to continue her newfound, hedonistic life, and damn the consequences.

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