How to handle a super-embarrassing parent like Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York

Elise Solé
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, has reportedly caused embarrassment for the royal family after tweeting her excitement for daughter Princess Eugenie’s engagement. (Photo: Getty Images)

News flash: Royal parents are not exempt from embarrassing their children. Proof of that is Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, whose gushy tweets over daughter Princess Eugenie’s engagement have sent the palace into a total PR panic.

On Tuesday, the ex-wife of Prince Andrew (the son of Queen Elizabeth and the little brother of Prince Charles) and mother of their two children, Princess Eugenie, 27, and Princess Beatrice, 29, tweeted her excitement over her youngest’s betrothal to wine merchant Jack Brooksbank, 31.

“Total joy!” tweeted Fergie along with a photo of the couple, with the words, “A total embrace of goodness and joy. We love Jack and I am so excited to have a son, a brother, and a best friend. Eugenie is one of the finest people I know and so together it will be pure harmony.”

“They float with laughter and love .. although a boat helps!” She tweeted next, with a photo of the couple on a boat.

“I always say that the river flows well to its destiny because of the guidance of a solid rock,” the mom joked in a tweet of the couple in the woods.

“They make laughter and we feel the joy. Thank you for the magic, Jack and Eugie. So proud of you.”

Lastly, the 58-year-old mom tweeted with a cheeky photo of the pair, “Thank you for your message and for sharing all our happiness with them and you.”

According to the Daily Mail, a scheduled BBC television interview with the princess and her beau was abruptly canceled, “leaving her ex-husband Prince Andrew to field questions from reporters. The change of plan led to speculation that the duchess may have been silenced due to her effusive online postings.”

Translation: Ferguson totally embarrassed her daughter.

“Parents generally become embarrassing at two different life stages,” Deborah Gilboa, MD, a parenting and youth development expert, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “During the teen years, when kids start pulling away from their families and do the hard, social work of forming identities as individuals; and young adulthood, when people become totally autonomous, such as with marriage.”

Sometimes, says Gilboa, “embarrassing” is a blanket descriptor covering other strong feelings such as anger, outrage, and betrayal, which women are historically cultured to suppress in lieu of appearing nice and accommodating. At the core of most “embarrassing parent” stories, particularly involving the public nature of social media, is the absence of consent. “Many parents now teach their children about consent, but when consent isn’t granted, for example, when posting private family photos, it can seem hypocritical,” she says.

For royals who live in the public eye and by a very specific code of conduct, the photos of Eugenie and her fiancé may be an example of that.

The reaction to Fergie’s photos could also be tied to her complicated history with the royal family. According to Biography, she had a privileged English upbringing, mingling with royalty through her father’s job as a manager for the Prince of Wales’s polo team. After a one-year courtship, Prince Andrew proposed with a pink Burma ruby (reportedly to match Fergie’s red hair) surrounded by diamonds.

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew on their official engagement day at Buckingham Palace in 1986. (Photo: Getty Images)

The media didn’t become enamored of the the duchess, nicknaming her “Fergie” due to her unconventional lifestyle. For example, her lavish trips abroad while her daughters were still infants, her close friendship with a Texan named Steve Wyatt (a relationship widely viewed as inappropriate for a married woman), and her weight gain, which earned her the tabloid nickname “Duchess of Pork.” Fergie later attributed this to disordered eating in an attempt to be as thin as her sister-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales.

Sisters-in-law Sarah Ferguson and Diana, Princess of Wales, on a Switzerland ski trip in 1988.

After Fergie and Andrew agreed to separate in 1992, photos emerged of a topless Fergie sunbathing in the South of France while a financier kissed her toes. And in 2010, long after her divorce and exile from the royal family (she wasn’t invited to Kate Middleton and Prince William’s 2011 wedding, and her invite to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s May nuptials is pending), she was secretly filmed offering an undercover reporter half a million dollars for access to her ex-husband, while drinking wine and smoking cigarettes.

Fergie’s latest “offense” likely stems from parental pride and overexcitement. Still, parents should check in with their kids and be respectful of their boundaries.

And for people who feel embarrassed by their parents, communicate those feelings. “Figure out what you need,” says Gilboa. “An apology? An offer to remove the photos? An agreement to approve social media posts beforehand? Many people on social media just want photo approval.”

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