The Roper Xavier Society has been fortunate over the years. Even as an economic downturn has left most Americans strapped for cash, the foundation brought in an outrageous $5.1 million in 2009. Needless to say, the nonprofit goes to great lengths to thank its generous donors. The most extravagant display of gratitude is the annual gala hosted in honor of the society’s members.

Held at Charleston Place Saturday, over 800 guests were treated like royalty for the evening, and were graced with a speech by a true member of the English nobility. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, entertained the audience with her sharp wit, which has somehow escaped the countless tabloid stories published about her. Giggling as she approached the podium, Ferguson attempted to hold her composure after having learned of Roper St. Francis’ President and CEO David Dunlap’s propensity for South Carolina’s signature dance.

“Shagging in Britain is not dancing,” Fergie chuckled. The Duchess sparked several fits of laughter from the crowd, which was then high on endorphins from bellies filled with filet, red velvet cake, and copious amounts of booze. Mixing inspirational tales and clever side notes, Fergie hit the cheesy requisite topics of hope, empowerment, and visions of world peace. The clever speaker also repeatedly praised Americans, obviously buttering us up which, of course, we all fell for unquestionably. We became even more enthralled with her seemingly genuine appreciation for our beloved city.
“I’m carrying this wonderful sweetgrass basket instead of Prada, and I think its better,” Fergie mused at the “handbag” she chose to hold her notes for the evening.
Before stepping down, the Duchess went on to cleverly remind the ballroom packed with southerners that “Charleston is named after King Charles. We are all British really aren’t we?”
Quiana Parler and Friends took the stage at the conclusion of the night, inviting friends to join the Dunlaps for a little shagging — the vertical form that is.

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