Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sarah Ferguson: "Canada could have saved our marriage" -- Uh, yeah

Last night on The National, they had a discussion about the production of a new movie about the early years of Queen Victoria and her reign. A couple of surprises -- First, the fact they used a French-Canadian director, Jean-Marc Vallée, almost totally unknown outside of Québec, to direct the film. The second is that one of the producers is none other than Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

Ferguson has confirmed that at the time of her marriage to Prince Andrew, the talk about his being appointed Governor General to Canada wasn't just scuttlebutt -- there were serious discussions about it. Ferguson suggested that had the plans gone through, she would have been able to spend more time with Andrew. During the first five years of their marriage, because of his naval duties, they only spent an average of forty days a year together -- which she blames as a huge factor in their eventual breakup. (Most of his time was at sea, the rest was on official business with or for his mother.)

Could the move have strengthened our ties to Britain some more? Maybe. And it certainly would have been a way to get rid of Jeanne Sauvé who just two years into her term was proving to be the most unpopular GG in our history -- she closed the grounds of Rideau Hall to the public, and she caused quite the fuss when she insisted there be a toast to her and not the Queen whenever she showed up for a banquet, which was considered an outrage especially in Western Canada.

Sauvé would also not allow people to sing the words to God Save the Queen at events she attended -- insisting instead on the music only vice-regal salute (six bars of GSTQ followed by the first four and last six bars of O Canada) -- which while technically correct from a protocol standpoint did not exactly endear her to a lot of people. While generally competent in the job, many thought her attitude towards it was so far off-base that only a royal couple could knock sense back into the institution.

I don't mean any disrespect to Ferguson, but there are a few problems with her line of thinking. First, she was a free spirit to begin with -- which was still very unwelcome in "The Firm" at that time. Diana had already overshadowed Charles, and Sarah was outclassing Andrew. Whether by accident or by design, the two women were outsiders, and the House of Windsor had already predetermined they had to be ejected sooner or later.

Second, by the 1980s the idea of having a Canadian as viceroy or vicereine was well established. Being appointed Governor General, effectively our head of state, is the ultimate patronage appointment and no prime minister would want to give that up perk after Louis St. Laurent fought so hard to wrest that from Buckingham Palace in 1952. A trade commissioner or some other high appointment, perhaps, but not GG. (Besides which, and slightly ironically, Andrew is now Britain's foreign trade representative, a very political position.)

Third, she knew full well what she was marrying into. She really can't complain about "what if." Especially since their marriage produced two daughters who both seem (so far anyway) to have their heads on straight, if you know what I mean. And she's not hard done by either -- she paid off her debt to the Queen and easily makes seven figures a year. Not bad for a woman who grew up in an English village with no title, no silver spoon and nothing going for her -- except a very high grade point average and the fact she was a military brat, daughter of a guy who attended Eton. (Yes, she's descended from aristocracy but far enough removed from it she would not otherwise be entitled to a hereditary peerage.)

Despite her history, including the infamous "toe-sucking" incident, I think a lot of guys would jump at the chance to try to date her and make her wife. Who wouldn't want to be a step-father to two princesses, one of whom who just might by fate become Queen some day? I'd tell Ferguson to stop dwelling on the past and live in the present. She seems to be doing quite well for herself -- and so does Canada, thank you very much.

To be fair, I actually have a great deal of respect for Sarah Ferguson. But on this one, she's living in a glass ménagerie.

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