Prince Andrew's ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York knows all too well what it's like to live under the microscope as a new member of the British royal family.
So it's not surprising that she can relate to the turmoil Meghan Markle has experienced at the hands of the tabloids over the past couple of years. In September, Prince Harry slammed most of the British press over their "ruthless" campaign against his wife. In October, on the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan gets emotional while talking about dealing with the negative press she has faced as a new royal and a new mom, and Harry says he "will not be bullied into playing a game that killed" his mother. Princess Diana, another tabloid favorite, died in a car crash in 1997 after being chased by photographers.
"I know what Meghan is going through," the Duchess of York said in an interview with Vogue Arabia, published on Wednesday.
"It must be hard for Meghan, and I can relate to her," she said. "I believe she is modern and fabulous. She was famous before. She is great. Why can't Meghan be great? Why can't she be celebrated? Any advice for her? I tend not to give advice because it is taken out of context, but I have been in Meghan's shoes, and I still am. There's always a twist of negativity and it just gets so sad and tiring; it's hard and mean. I abhor bullying and I feel desperately sorry for the pain they must be going through because I've been through it."
Sarah, now a children's book author and philanthropist, and Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II's second son, married in 1986. They share two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. Sarah, aka "Fergie," was a favorite of the tabloids, which both celebrated and mocked her, especially over her look; some even dubbed her the "Duchess of Pork." In early 1992, Sarah and Andrew separated. Months later, a tabloid published photos of her having her toes sucked by a U.S. businessman as she sunbathed topless—a great embarrassment to the royal family. Sarah and Andrew divorced in 1996. They remain friends.
Papers filed in a 2015 U.S. civil case stated that convicted pedophile and U.S. businessman Jeffrey Epstein used to spend time with Andrew. Their past friendship was brought to light again in recent months; Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide in a U.S. prison in August as he awaited trial on a sex trafficking charge.
Late last month, the BBC aired a controversial interview with the Duke of York, in which he denied allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl obtained for him by Epstein. After the interview and subsequent backlash, Andrew announced that he will step back from his public royal duties with permission from the queen.
Sarah, who had herself once had financial ties to Epstein, had defended her ex-husband before the interview.
"When I talk about Prince Andrew, I talk about family because the last six months have been hard on the girls and me," Sarah told Vogue Arabia. "To see such a wonderful man go through such enormous pain. He is the best man I know. It's just incredible what he has done for Britain, and it's all nonsense...so I talk about familyhood, and I'm very strong about it. The mental health of men is important and I think it is vital to articulate that more."