Sarah, Duchess of York, guest-edited and co-presented a special edition of This Morning (ITV) on Monday. I want to be honest. I want to be kind. Yet when it comes to the Duchess in a live television situation, these two virtues become mutually and volcanically exclusive.
From 10am until the show ended, 150 white-knuckle minutes later, the Ferg launching herself on to daytime television, like Icarus in reverse thrust, was every bit as marvellously terrible as I had hoped.
Hard to pick a highlight amongst the word-mangling, corgi-wrangling spaghetti cook-in and the interview with Sir Cliff Richard (Fergie: ‘You really are as humble and as kind as you always have been, how do you do that?’ Sir Cliff: ‘For me, it comes easily.’ But her brief turn as a phone-in agony aunt was exquisite.
‘Basically she has been around the block and she is here to help,’ said host Dermot O’Leary, making Fergie sound like an obliging pony with a dodgy past and the foamy fetlocks to match – and to be fair, that is not a million miles from the truth.
‘Ask me just about anything, ring in about love, relationships, hard times,’ trilled the Duchess. No doubt careful call-screening by ITV prevented any rascals from ringing in to ask what to do when your ex-husband pays out a reported £12million to a woman he says he never met but many viewers lived in hope.
Guest editor: Sarah, Duchess of York, guest-edited and co-presented a special edition of This Morning (ITV) on Monday
Selfie: Fergie taking a photo on the show with co-hosts Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond
Still, I felt grateful the late Queen went to her grave without witnessing her daughter-in-law appear on national television to urge Suzanne from Newcastle to invest in some fruity knickers to bring back the sexy in her marriages.
‘Yah. Get a lovely saucy underwear set from your chest of drawers, blow dry the hair and take him out on a treat,’ said the Duchess and for a moment I thought she was talking about a corgi, not Suzanne’s unresponsive hubs.
Further advice included taking time off work and visiting lots of ‘lovely, lovely restaurants and lovely hotels’. Clearly in Fergieland there is no cost of living crisis, work responsibilities nor childcare issues.
‘There needs to be more treats,’ she kept repeating. ‘Treats. Treats. Treats.’ She also revealed that another secret to a happy marriage was for a couple to leave little notes in each other’s pockets. I do wonder how many times she reached into the pocket of her favourite trenchcoat and found one that read: ‘Please Get Out Of My House.’
Still, you have to laugh. Fergie has her good points and her strengths just like anyone, but she is a woman whose life is one long, tattered ribbon of wrong decisions and bad judgement – she is about the last person on earth you’d ask for advice about anything.
Whatever next? After the break, the Duchess of Sussex tells viewers how to maintain healthy relationships with your in-laws, while Genghis Khan shares his dinner party tips and kebab recipes.
New role: Fergie takes charge of the show’s Spin To Win competition on Monday
Closely flanked by O’Leary and co-presenter Alison Hammond, the Duchess spent much of her time in the studio either on the sofa or sitting behind a large bowl of fruit, her eyes sliding around in panic.
In her green outfit and pixie boots, she looked like Mad Mother Elf, a panto character in search of a plot, which also kind of sums up her life to date.
But she was good at that joshing royal small talk; the kind of teasing chitchat that comes in handy when you are opening a fair in Manchester on a wet Wednesday morning.
Fergie kept it super bland about the Windsors (‘The King and Queen love their grandchildren and I love that’) but ventured an opinion – uh oh – about Artificial Intelligence (AI), which some see as the biggest threat to humanity since the neutron bomb. Not her.
‘I don’t think anyone watching should be frightened of AI,’ she said. ‘Maybe progressing, going forward, it can be a useful tool.’
As the show itself progressed it became clear that although the Duchess of York has had an interesting life, she seems to have learned little from the experience and nothing seems to have made an impression in the great void of her royal being. As guest editor, she chose the topics featured on the show, which included rehoming dogs, 65 years of Sir Cliff Richard, making a classic carbonara and heart failure. In the health segment, the Duchess used her position as ambassador of the British Heart Foundation to highlight the importance of public defibrillators and how to use them.
‘Do you shave the chest first if they are vairy hairy?’ she wondered poshly.
In the cooking section, she inveigled chef Marcus Bean to make ‘spaghetti carbonara, a personal favourite of mine’ and surely one of the simplest dishes on the planet? Yet after it was made, the Duchess of York was in awe.
‘I really love that you have shown me how to do it and that is the first time I have seen it done,’ she said, an unbelievable glimpse into the upstairs, upstairs life of a 65-year-old woman who doesn’t know how to boil spaghetti.
‘It’s your show, I am the fluff,’ she told Dermot and Alison at one point, which I thought was rather overplaying her hand. Still, this may have been the most exciting episode of This Morning in the show’s history.