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How kindness of Camilla has brought Fergie in from the cold: Sarah Ferguson has been bonding with the Queen Consort as she realises ‘she is the power behind the King’ – and was ‘in the thick of it’ during the Royal Family’s Christmas celebrations

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She’s been persona non grata among the Royals for years – but the Duchess Of York has unexpectedly been welcomed back into the family fold.

The extraordinary reversal of fortune – which would have been unthinkable if Prince Philip, or indeed the Queen, were still alive – has come after Sarah found a powerful advocate in Camilla.

A source said: ‘Camilla likes Sarah. They’re both gentry. They share a love of horses and Fergie will be smart enough to play the game with Camilla and realise she is the power behind the King. That she must be nice to them and support them.’

The connection was reinforced over Christmas after Fergie was, surprisingly, welcomed to join the family for the traditional celebrations at Sandringham.

For years, her ex-husband Prince Andrew would take their daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, to the celebrations, leaving Sarah out in the cold. This year, however, the Duchess was a guest not only for Christmas lunch, but also the following day’s shoot.

Sarah Ferguson still lives with Andrew, but up until this year Andrew would take their daughters to celebrate Christmas with the Royal family alone

Sarah Ferguson still lives with Andrew, but up until this year Andrew would take their daughters to celebrate Christmas with the Royal family alone

The Duchess of York has finally been accepted back into the fold at the behest of Camilla, sources say

The Duchess of York has finally been accepted back into the fold at the behest of Camilla, sources say

She's been persona non grata among the Royals for years – but the Duchess Of York has unexpectedly been welcomed back into the family fold

She’s been persona non grata among the Royals for years – but the Duchess Of York has unexpectedly been welcomed back into the family fold

It’s notable that the Boxing Day event was traditionally organised by Prince Philip, who would have blanched at the idea of inviting the Duchess.

She was ‘beyond the pale’ as far as Philip was concerned, according to his biographer Gyles Brandreth, and ‘vulgar, vulgar, vulgar’ as one courtier memorably said.

But The Mail on Sunday understands that both the Duke and Duchess of York – divorced but still living together – were not only invited to all the Christmas celebrations, they were even given the use of Philip’s former home, Wood Farm, during their stay. The cottage on the Sandringham Estate was where Philip spent his retirement, pottering about after fitting it out with a new kitchen and updating the heating.

For the Yorks to be granted the use of the property raised eyebrows in some quarters, but the move signals a considerable thawing of relations within the family.

A source said: 'Camilla likes Sarah. They're both gentry. They share a love of horses and Fergie will be smart enough to play the game with Camilla and realise she is the power behind the King. That she must be nice to them and support them'

A source said: ‘Camilla likes Sarah. They’re both gentry. They share a love of horses and Fergie will be smart enough to play the game with Camilla and realise she is the power behind the King. That she must be nice to them and support them’

The Mail on Sunday understands that both the Duke and Duchess of York – divorced but still living together – were not only invited to all the Christmas celebrations, they were even given the use of Philip's former home, Wood Farm (pictured), during their stay

The Mail on Sunday understands that both the Duke and Duchess of York – divorced but still living together – were not only invited to all the Christmas celebrations, they were even given the use of Philip’s former home, Wood Farm (pictured), during their stay

Pictured: Sarah Ferguson

Pictured: Queen Camilla

‘There was Fergie, in the thick of it, chatting away to the King and Queen Consort on the Boxing Day shoot,’ the source said. ‘Philip would never have allowed that’

‘There was Fergie, in the thick of it, chatting away to the King and Queen Consort on the Boxing Day shoot,’ the source said. ‘Philip would never have allowed that.

‘There’s a feeling that, no matter what Sarah’s personal faults – and she can be like Marmite in that respect – she has been a good mother to the girls and loyal to Andrew.’

The Royal Family has not forgotten the ‘toe-sucking’ pictures of Fergie, taken when she was on holiday with her Texan tycoon lover, nor the way in which she offered access to Andrew in exchange for cash and was caught in a newspaper sting. But while she may have been an embarrassment, Fergie has never sought to damage the Monarchy.

The thawing of relations with the 63-year-old Duchess, aides say, is indicative of a seismic shift in the family, led by the new Queen Consort. Camilla has taken over the Queen’s old rooms at Sandringham and both she and the King would prefer it to be run as a relaxed family home.

A Royal insider said: ‘They want guests to have a homely experience, similar to Dumfries House [the Ayrshire mansion Charles saved].

The connection was reinforced over Christmas after Fergie was, surprisingly, welcomed to join the family for the traditional celebrations at Sandringham. Pictured: The Royals attending a Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene's church

The connection was reinforced over Christmas after Fergie was, surprisingly, welcomed to join the family for the traditional celebrations at Sandringham. Pictured: The Royals attending a Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene’s church

Camilla has taken over the Queen's old rooms at Sandringham and both she and the King would prefer it to be run as a relaxed family home

Camilla has taken over the Queen’s old rooms at Sandringham and both she and the King would prefer it to be run as a relaxed family home

‘Camilla respects Sir Tony [Johnstone-Burt, head of the Royal Household] but perhaps sees things differently from him. The Queen Consort doesn’t want the homes and palaces run like the sort of corporate hotel you might find at a motorway service station.

‘Camilla doesn’t want the towels put on the bed, but laid out on the rails in the bathrooms. She wants nice soap, not the same little individually wrapped soaps you get in a hotel.’

Not all of the changes have been welcomed by Sandringham staff, many of whom served for decades under the previous regime.

In the ‘Big House’, a housekeeper is leaving their post, the Mail on Sunday understands. And some say that the annual shoot was far better when Philip ran it.

One source grumbled: ‘Today, the bird numbers are much lower because they’ve been overshot.’

The Royal Family has not forgotten the 'toe-sucking' pictures of Fergie, but while she may have been an embarrassment, Fergie has never sought to damage the Monarchy

The Royal Family has not forgotten the ‘toe-sucking’ pictures of Fergie, but while she may have been an embarrassment, Fergie has never sought to damage the Monarchy

Previously staff had a habit of using the back stairs and made themselves scarce if they saw an approaching ‘MRF’ – Member of the Royal Family.

‘But Charles walks the corridors and wants to know where people are dashing off to,’ a source said. ‘He wants to stop and talk to them. They don’t understand it.’

If some are grumbling it was perhaps because the previous workload – with a retired Prince Philip and a nonagenarian Queen – was much lighter.

Of the changing demands, one insider added diplomatically: ‘Old habits are hard to break. Let’s just say the teams at Buckingham Palace and Sandringham are quite busy these days.’

Change is in the air within the family, too – although many insiders note than Fergie was never fully frozen out.

The thawing of relations with the 63-year-old Duchess, aides say, is indicative of a seismic shift in the family, led by the new Queen Consort

The thawing of relations with the 63-year-old Duchess, aides say, is indicative of a seismic shift in the family, led by the new Queen Consort

Despite divorcing in 1996, Andrew and Fergie’s assets are still so entwined, so that good fortune for one means good fortune for the other. They still live together at Royal Lodge on the Windsor estate and recently sold their jointly-owned £17 million ski chalet in the Swiss resort of Verbier.

The Duchess has also bought a £5 million mews house in Mayfair, Central London.

It’s not known how she financed it, but it is believed to have been with help from Andrew. It is further thought that she will rent it out as an investment.

Andrew, too, has had some good luck – financially, at least.

Charles has agreed to foot his brother’s estimated £3million-a-year bill for private bodyguards after his police protection was withdrawn.

And while there is no pressing desire on the part of the King to find a new job for Andrew, the Monarch is said to be warming to the idea that Andrew might be permitted to use ‘HRH’ on his correspondence again, something previously denied.

Now Andrew even dares to hope for a return to public life.

Meanwhile, Fergie is busy promoting her second historical romance for Mills & Boon, A Most Intriguing Lady.

It is her own life story, however, which may ultimately prove to be more intriguing than any work of fiction.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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