They were painted as fierce rivals after both marrying into the royal family, but Sarah Ferguson has always insisted that she and Princess Diana were actually good friends.
And now, as Buckingham Palace takes action against online abuse aimed at duchesses Meghan and Catherine, Fergie has slammed cruel online trolls in a heartfelt open letter, comparing comments pitting women against each other to the nasty rumours about her and Diana years ago.
Writing for Hello! magazine, as part of their new #hellotokindness campaign, the Duchess of York has hit out at the “extraordinarily abusive comments” on websites and social media – claiming the “bullying, sniping, bitching, appalling sexism, racism and homophobia” is getting out of hand.
“Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt,” she wrote.
She has now urged social media platforms and news websites to stand up to trolls and work to stop the abuse circulating once and for all.
“I believe that it’s time to take a stand. This isn’t about freedom of speech. The truth is, it’s not acceptable to post abuse or threats on social media or news sites, and it’s not acceptable to harangue other users simply because they disagree with you,” she added.
“It’s not acceptable to pit women against one another all the time.”
While Fergie said she enjoys using both Twitter and Instagram to post personal messages, family photos and charity campaigns, she admitted the comments and depths some people will go to online “terrifies” her.
“People feel licensed to say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face, and that encourages others to pile in. It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve all become numb to what’s going on,” she went on. “There is good evidence that this online culture is having a detrimental impact on people’s mental health, particularly vulnerable young people.”
Shockingly, just hours after the magazine published Fergie’s open letter, she was inundated with more cruel comments on social media. Having read some of them, she has since hit out at the trolls – saying all they have done is prove every one of her points.
“Responses on a news site to my warning online discourse has become a sewer: ‘Stay out it [sic] lady; Yorks don’t need to be dragged into this fight – Shut it!’… ‘I suggest you crawl back under your rock’… ‘oh god – Yorkie bar is back!’… They rather make point for me #HelloToKindness,” she wrote on Twitter.
Responses on a news site to my warning online discourse has become a sewer.
“Stay out it [sic] lady; Yorks don't need to be dragged into this fight – Shut it!”
“I suggest you crawl back under your rock”
“oh god – Yorkie bar is back!”
They rather make point for me #HelloToKindness
— Sarah Ferguson (@SarahTheDuchess) February 11, 2019
It comes after the publication previously revealed that Kensington Palace staff are now being forced to spend hours moderating offensive comments aimed at Meghan and Catherine, many of which are described as “sexist and racist” while some even contain threats towards the royals or other ‘rival’ fans.
A source told the magazine: “Over the course of last year, with hundreds of thousands of comments, there were two or three that were violent threats.”
The royal family have several Instagram and Twitter accounts, covering all members of the royal family across Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace. The main royal Instagram account alone has 4.5million followers, while Kensington Palace, (which covers all of Meghan, Prince Harry, Catherine and Prince William’s activities) has 7.1million.
The source added: “It follows a Kate vs Meghan narrative and some of the worst stuff is between Kate fans and Meghan fans.”
“There’s a wider narrative in the media pitting them against each other, and unfortunately people are piling in and taking sides,” Emily Nash, the magazine’s royal editor, explained to CNN.
“It seems to me to be particularly sexist… You have people comparing them in a way that doesn’t really happen with men, ‘She’s walking funny, or her heels are too high, or her legs are too skinny’.”
Despite the ongoing claims of animosity between them, Meghan and Catherine have appeared amicable with each other on outings in recent months and happily walked side by side as they arrived for a church service at Sandringham over Christmas – showing no signs at all of any issues.