Sarah Ferguson has spoken out about Princess Beatrice's Italian fiance, who was meant to be marrying into the royal family next month.
As billions of people around the world hunker down right now, the issue of loneliness and isolation has never been more pressing. If there is one person who intimately understands this problem, it is Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.
"I felt a huge loss when my mother left," the Duchess tells news.com.au, in an interview before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
"What I did do, from a young age, was to retreat into other places and stories. I loved the flowers, trees and ponies and going into a world of make believe and I was fortunate to be able to do this. This is how I got through it."
"Getting through it" is something that the duchess, 60, has become supremely adept at.
Sarah was 12 years old when her mother Susan left husband Major Ronald Ferguson for polo player Hector Barrantes.
In adulthood, she faced life in the glare of the global spotlight when she wed Prince Andrew in 1986 and then intense tabloid scrutiny.
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In 1996 came the sadness of divorce, leaving Sarah to deal with the challenges of single parenthood. Factor in also that for the last two and a half decades, she has worked tirelessly to forge an international career as a writer, philanthropist, producer and entrepreneur.
While countless articles have been written about the duchess over the decades, there is one epithet that is nearly universally used to describe her: Survivor.
Despite the curveballs she has faced throughout the years, her attitude is simple.
"Everyone will face challenges in their lifetime and what I have learnt is adversity can be your friend," she says. "If you have a knock, pick yourself up and dust yourself down. Have belief, trust and conviction."
That resilience is something she has instilled in her children, daughters Princess Beatrice and Eugenie.
"I've always encouraged my children to look at life differently, to see the positive side of a problem and understand there is always a way ahead," she says.
Now, she wants to harness the power of make believe to draw children into a colourful, vivid world of her own creation. Earlier this year she inked a seven-book deal with Australia's Serenity Press comprising five picture books and two chapter books. The first of these will be published in mid-2020.
Her roster of charming characters are inspired by some of the most important people in her life.
"The face of The Enchanted Oak is based on my father with his bushy eyebrows, kind eyes and wisdom," she explains. "I love trees. When I first moved to London, before I got married, I felt lonely. Although I was living in a city, I was away from all that was familiar, and took comfort from walks in the parks as I missed the countryside as well as my family."
Meanwhile, the idea for Genie Gems can be traced back to her youngest daughter, Princess Eugenie.
"Eugenie is strong, determined and always looks for the truth in everything she does," Fergie says. "In her work with the Anti-Slavery Collective is a commitment she steadfastly campaigns to give everyone the chance to have a voice, as does my heroine Genie."
Sarah is the author of more than 25 books and to her mind, "more than ever, we need storytelling now".
"We learn so much from stories – we're entertained, educated, curious, our imaginations take hold," she says. "I consider that social media has become a sewer, where people say things they wouldn't have dreamt of saying to each other face-to-face. I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where people are respectful of other people's views, even if they don't agree with them."
Last month saw Princess Eugenie celebrate her 30th birthday, which the Duchess marked by sharing a personal snap of the Princess taken during her 2018 wedding to Jack Brooksbank. Next month should have seen her eldest daughter Princess Beatrice also walk down the aisle to wed Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. Sadly, like countless other couples, they have now had to postpone their big day as the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.
For Sarah, the addition of these two men to York family life is only a boon.
"Beatrice is the happiest I have ever seen her in my life and she and Edo have a great love for each other and passion for life," she says. "Rather than feeling as if I have lost anything, I feel like our family has grown for having Jack and Edo in it."
As the world faces a turbulent, worrying future Sarah is getting stuck in, posting a photo of herself with sweet treats destined for frontline medical staff. Later, she asked her 260,000 followers to support the Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity the duchess has long been involved with, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Whether it be sitting down to create a magical world for children or doing her bit to help out during a global crisis, Sarah is guided by a powerful maxim.
"I always remember the advice I was given by my Grandmother: 'Once you gather the courage to make a first tentative step toward your goal, the next ones come easier'."