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Sarah Ferguson has always worn her heart on her sleeve, both as a mother and as a philanthropist. Affectionately known as Fergie, the Duchess of York has put charity work front and center during her decades in the public eye, working to support teenagers with cancer as well as women and children from underprivileged backgrounds. She is also the accomplished author of at least two nonfiction books, a memoir and more than a dozen children’s books. Her new project, Her Heart for a Compass: A Novel, is a historical romance based in part on her own family history.
Here, Sarah is sharing a piece of writing of a different kind with Good Housekeeping readers. Penned at the beginning of a new stage of life for her — becoming a grandmother — this intimate letter to her daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie (grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II), expresses admiration at their courage in the face of challenges and her wishes for the next generation.
When I sat down to write this letter, I was reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
Every day I thank the universe for allowing me to be your mother. You have always been the blood in my veins. From the time you were wee tots, you made my life complete. I look at how full of humility, laughter and joy you are in your hearts, and I marvel at you both. Now, in you as mothers, I see strength, courage and steadfastness, integrity and goodness, and the way you embrace every challenge and moment. It is an extraordinary feeling when your child becomes a mother. Suddenly my little girlies have their own little ones ... such a feeling to get used to. But if I do cry or tear up as you drive away, it is only because I am so proud of you. It has been just us for 33 years, but now you are creating your own families, and I couldn’t be happier for you both and my magnificent sons-in-law, Jack and Edo.
Being 61 makes me a young grandma, and I love it. I smile from my heart every day, because that is how it feels to be a granny. I have so many fun ideas of things to do with my grandchildren, and of course they’re a perfect new audience for all my children’s books. You are resilient, calm and oh so kind, and your compassion and understanding of life give me more satisfaction than I can say and make me so deeply proud. I marvel at your cleverness in how you manage your lives. Nothing gives me more pleasure than watching you be incredible mothers.
You have both withstood cruelty in the face of cyberbullying, keyboard warriors and social media trolling. You have stood strong in the face of such adversity. Whatever faces you, still you remain in harmony with life.
I always taught you the three C's: — communication, compromise and compassion — and you demonstrate all three. I want you to move onward and upward. Always look up. When I see clouds, I think of the French quote “Le ciel reste, mais les nuages passent” (“The sky remains, but the clouds pass”).
Do you remember Grummy, my maternal grandmother? Grummy was my total inspiration. She always said, “When you feel bad about yourself, give to others.” Grummy started me on the road to charity and philanthropy, which led to my starting Children in Crisis in 1992. She used to love the A.A. Milne quote “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think,” which struck me as useful and wise. My grandfather passed when I was quite young; he was so special and brave. I called him Puff, because he really did make me believe that if I blew on his pocket watch, it would spring open (he did it, of course, but when I was little, it was such a wonderful trick).
On my paternal side, Gargar (Marian, my very funny and brilliant mimic of a grandmother) taught me about Scotland and tea leaves from China. She knew lots about our ancestry and was proud of her very fine ankles! My grandfather was called Pop, and he had the best mustache, which he twitched on demand, and a black-and-white spaniel called Tweasel. I see aspects of all your grandparents in the two of you.
When your children walk on their own journeys, please teach them to be authentic to themselves, like I taught you. Tell them to always try to turn to joy —to see nature, hear the birds sing, feel the rain droplets that make trees smile. Believe in fairies and the magic of every day. Never give up on the road to smiles and rainbows, and remember the saying “This too shall pass, like the clouds in the sky.”
This story originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Good Housekeeping. Subscribe to Good Housekeeping here.
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