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Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson has taken on many roles over the years: daughter-in-law to the Queen of England, mother of two real-life princesses, philanthropist and actress to name a few. But in her latest venture as author of the newly released novel Her Heart for a Compass, the Duchess of York is drawing from all of those different experiences and funneling much of herself into the book's main character, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott.
"I feel very strongly that [Lady Margaret] is almost my alter ego and that she's really telling the story of my life," Sarah tells Good Housekeeping. "While it’s not an autobiography, I am talking about the real-life DNA in my heart."
Cowritten by historical author Marguerite Kaye, the book centers around Lady Margaret, who feels a sense of entrapment existing as a headstrong woman in a Victorian English society. After being exiled from her circle, Margaret finds solace and purpose in a new group of friends and spends her days performing charity. She also comes to find herself by embarking on an international journey across Ireland and the United States.
Sarah tells us that Lady Margaret came to be while she was discussing a "redheaded lady that rides her horses stride instead of sidesaddle" with an editor. Throughout the pandemic, Sarah spent much of her time writing about this fictional noblewoman.
"I had the time and I used the days with such great excitement," she says. "I escaped through thoroughly absorbing myself into 1870 in the history of what went on, not only in Scotland, but in Ireland and of course in New York. I really threw myself into it and did massive amounts of research."
Many similarities between Margaret and herself are quite obvious — the novel's lead is described as an outspoken and self-willed redhead, for starters. What's more, Margaret happens to be Sarah's middle name. But beyond that, Lady Margaret represents so many people in Sarah's own life who were willing to break the mold.
"I have always wanted to know, in terms of my ancestry, why I have this extraordinary, quirky way about me about loving life, and finding joy everywhere, as well as that feeling of always wanting to be daring to do something brave," she explains. "The more research I did into myself, the more I found out I’m quite similar to Lady Margaret and to all of my ancestors who dared to go above and beyond the normal course of life."
As for who the Duchess looks up to now, Sarah is eager to share a list that includes former First Lady Michelle Obama and actress Jennifer Aniston. But she also is proud to give Her Majesty the Queen a shoutout.
"There is no greater lady in my life," Sarah says about Queen Elizabeth II.
"I admire the people who evolve and never give up," she adds.
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