Isolated Prince’s one remaining ally
AS PRINCE Andrew's reputation - and career - descended into free fall this week, the silence from his former allies was deafening.
The lack of support coming in for the disgraced Duke of York amid his disastrous interview with the BBC over his ties to convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein comes as no surprise to royal watchers, as he's reportedly isolated himself from those around him with his "incredibly rude" and "pompous" attitude over the years.
As a source told The Sun: "Prince Andrew has very few friends. And most of his older friends have dropped him as too pompous. His days are rather empty."
But there's one high-profile figure firmly in his corner - and it's a rather unique alliance.
Sarah Ferguson, who has remained extremely close with Prince Andrew since their divorce in 1996 after a decade of marriage, was photographed smiling as she drove into Buckingham Palace on Thursday to support him as he navigated his extraction from royal duties.
Fergie herself once had strong ties to Epstein, who bailed her out financially in the early '00s.
In 2011, the Telegraph reported that the billionaire paid her formal personal assistant Johnny O'Sullivan £15,000 ($A28,514), at the request of Prince Andrew, who was trying to help his ex-wife wade through her heavy debts.
When the story broke at the time, Fergie was quick to express her regret at ever having been associated with Epstein.
"I personally, on behalf of myself, deeply regret that Jeffrey Epstein became involved in any way with me. I abhor paedophilia and any sexual abuse of children and know that this was a gigantic error of judgment on my behalf. I am just so contrite I cannot say," she told the publication.
Meanwhile, her smiling appearance at the Palace on Thursday was a very public show of support for Andrew, and comes just days after she posted a glowing endorsement of her ex-husband on Instagram.
Alongside multiple pictures of the Prince, Ferguson wrote: "It is so rare to meet people that are able to speak from their hearts with honesty and pure real truth, that remain steadfast and strong to their beliefs.
"Andrew is a true and real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness and goodness of always seeing the best in people. I am deeply supportive and proud of this giant of a principled man, that dares to put his shoulder to the wind and stands firm with his sense of honour and truth.
"For so many years he has gone about his duties for Great Britain and The Monarch. It is time for Andrew to stand firm now, and that he has, and I am with him every step of the way and that is my honour. We have always walked tall and strong, he for me and me for him."
Andrew may have alienated many of those around him - but his bond with his ex-wife is as strong as ever.
Here's a look back at their very unique relationship:
Fergie and the Queen's second son initially met as children, before being reunited years later.
The late Princess Diana invited Fergie to a party at Windsor Castle with the royals, where the former childhood pals hit it off and promptly began dating.
In March 1986, they announced their engagement, and just four months later tied the knot at Westminster Abbey.
In 1988 they welcomed daughter Beatrice, followed by Eugenie in 1990.
But the happy days of their marriage were short-lived.
Fergie told Harper's Bazaar in 2011 she was only able to see Andrew for "40 days a year for the first five years of our marriage".
"Actually, one of the people (at Buckingham Palace), who shall remain nameless, said, 'Oh, for heaven's sake, you're just a naval wife. Put up with it. Everyone else has to.' I would say, 'No, I'm going to be with him,"' Fergie said.
"Two weeks after the wedding, the royal courtiers told Andrew, who thought he'd be stationed in London, 'You have to go to sea.'
"I spent my entire first pregnancy alone.
"When Beatrice was born, Andrew got 10 days of shore leave and when he left and I cried, they all said: 'Grow up and get a grip.'"
The long-distance nature of their marriage took its toll on the couple, with Buckingham Palace announcing their separation in early 1992 before divorcing four years later.
They're in a whole different league - but in the late '90s and early '00s, it was Fergie's actions that were causing headaches for the royal family.
Just months after their split was announced, photos emerged in a British tabloid of Fergie holidaying in St Tropez with new lover, financier John Bryan.
Shots showing Bryan sucking on the Duchess of York's toes made headlines around the world and saw Fergie well and truly ousted from the royal family for the rest of the 1990s.
Meanwhile, as her marriage to Andrew was falling apart, Fergie built up an overdraft of ₤5 million ($A9.5 million) with the Queen's bank Coutts, according to the Daily Mail.
The Duchess of York raised eyebrows within royal circles when she decided to take on speaking engagements and signed a multimillion-dollar ambassador contract with Weight Watchers in the US.
Despite the best intentions, her financial troubles continued into the 2000s, with Fergie's lifestyle company Hartmoor collapsing in 2009 after just three years in operation.
According to The Telegraph, Hartmoor had more than $US1 million ($A1.47 million) in debts when it closed, with an insider saying it "was not run well".
Fergie's money troubles eventually saw her embroiled in a scandal of epic proportions in 2010, when UK tabloid The News Of The World secretly filmed the Duchess reportedly selling access to her ex-husband to a fake Indian businessman for ₤500,000 ($A950,000).
She later told Oprah Winfrey that she had been drinking and had substantial debts when the video was filmed, but strongly denied her ex-husband had any prior knowledge of her meeting.
"I was in the gutter at that moment," Fergie said. "I'm aware of the fact that I've been drinking, you know - that I was not in my right place."
ARE THEY OR AREN'T THEY?
Despite divorcing in 1996, the couple have continued to act more like a married couple than exes. In 2008, Fergie even moved in with Andrew and their daughters at the Royal Lodge in Windsor and last November, the pair refused to rule out that they would one day remarry.
Certainly, their friendship never wavered - the former spouses have actually managed to become even closer since they ended their marriage. Over the years, they've regularly been seen dining out together at restaurants, attending family events together, and even purchasing a chalet in Switzerland together.
As Fergie explained of their rare relationship in 2013: "He's my handsome prince, he'll always be my handsome prince."
And things appeared to have heated up again following their daughter Eugenie's marriage late last year.
In April, respected ITV royal reporter Chris Ship tweeted that Andrew and Fergie were "back together".
But it may not be as simple as that. According to The Sun, it's more of a "friends with benefits" situation. Unlike in the past few years, neither is dating or pursuing anyone else romantically.
Whether they're back on or not - as the worst week of his life unfolds, Andrew is no doubt grateful that he's got at least one person staunchly in his corner.