Royals

Fergie’s bizarre friendships

Fergie has always had a wide group of friends but the latest additions to her inner circle have left some bewildered.
Sarah Ferguson on The Duchess on the Estate

The Duchess of York (49) has become close with Michael Jackson’s ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley. She has also been spending time with a criminally convicted mother of three from a low-income estate in Manchester.

The Duchess’ bond with Lisa Marie formed when the pair met in America. Fergie invited the actress to holiday at her $62-million rented villa near Marbella, Spain, determined to help her cope with the grief of her ex-husband’s tragic death. Lisa Marie (41) also joined Fergie and Andrew at Beatrice’s 21st birthday party.

“They have become very close,” says a source. “It may seem an odd combination but they get on very well and have lots in common. Sarah invited her to Bea’s birthday. She came with her children and partner.”

Fergie has also been reaching out to the people in one of the most deprived communities in the UK, after opposition leader David Cameron urged Brits to “hug a hoodie” – the name given to youths who hide under hooded sweatshirts.

The Duchess spent 10 days in a crime-ridden Wythenshawe estate in Manchester, which is also the location for BAFTA-winning TV show, Shameless.

Fergie has been spending time getting to know the locals on the 66,000-strong estate, one of the largest in Europe, as part of her new documentary, The Duchess on the Estate.

“The hoodies I spoke to thought I was a toffee-nosed git,” she says. “But that’s fine. I wanted them to realise that not everybody is automatically going to think they are bad.”

She also came up with an idea to set up a community centre, for which she helped to raise nearly $100,000, in an attempt to transform it into a thriving local community.

“I found Dawn, this wonderful, strong, special woman who knew everyone, and made her my colonel-in-chief,” she said. “She’s now on my payroll, a mum-of-three with a criminal record for assaulting another mum. Like her, I’ve made mistakes. I wanted to give her another chance.”

Fergie even went so far as to say she wasn’t afraid to go walking at night in an area where knife crime was common.

“Sometimes I’m completely bizarre with my behaviour. oost people don’t go hoodie-hunting late at night on Northern Moor. I wouldn’t want my children to be frightened to go outside,” she added, referring to Princess Beatrice and Eugenie, who have round-the-clock police protection at a cost of more than $1.2 million a year.

Not everyone is happy with the Duchess’ scheme, with some locals accusing her of meddling in their lives. one man was so furious, he attacked the community centre she helped to fund, blasting the windows out with a shot gun. But rather than deter her from her efforts, the attack only made Fergie more determined.

Others have criticised Fergie for staying at a Victorian guesthouse, set in lovely gardens on the outskirts of the estate, away from the gritty reality of the streets. Some have said the Duchess is simply being patronising to her subjects.

“Patronising would be sitting in London telling Dawn what to do,” Fergie retorts. “The bottom line is that if Dawn says she needs £40,000 [NZ$95,000] for the centre, I go and raise it. That’s my job.”

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