Sarah, Duchess of York
(née Sarah Margaret Ferguson
, born 15 October 1959) is the daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson
by his wife Susan, daughter of Fitzherbert Wright. The Duchess was for 10 years the wife of Prince Andrew
, the Duke of York
, who is fourth in line
to the British throne
. She is a former member of the British Royal Family
and the mother of Princess Beatrice
and Princess Eugenie
, who are respectively fifth and sixth in line of succession to the British Throne
. She is popularly referred to as Fergie
Sarah comes from aristocracy with royal Stuart
ancestry. On her father's side, Sarah is a descendant of King Charles II of England
from two of his illegitimate sons Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond
and James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
. She is a great-great-granddaughter of William Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 6th Duke of Buccleuch
and a great-granddaughter of Mervyn Wingfield, 8th Viscount Powerscourt
. Her grandmother was Marian Louisa Montagu-Douglas-Scott a first cousin of Lady Alice Christabel Montagu-Douglas-Scott, who became after her marriage with Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester
, an aunt of Queen Elizabeth II
Sarah and Prince Andrew's romance began after some scheming to bring them together was orchestrated by Diana, Princess of Wales
in 1985. Early in 1986 the couple were engaged and subsequently married in Westminster Abbey
on 23 July 1986. The Queen bestowed the title The Duke of York
upon Prince Andrew. Sarah automatically became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York
. In 1987, the Duchess became the first lady in the Royal Family to receive her Private Pilot's License.
The Duke and Duchess of York had two children during their marriage:
End of the marriage
By 1992, the marriage was experiencing trouble and the couple had drifted apart. While her husband was away on military or royal duties, Sarah was frequently seen in the company of other men, most notably Texas
multimillionaire Steve Wyatt
. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson finally agreed to separate
in January 1992. In August 1992, surreptitiously taken photographs of John Bryan, an American financial manager — in the act of sucking on the toes of a topless Sarah — were published in the British tabloid
newspaper The Daily Mirror
. The Duchess endured widespread public ridicule contributing to her further estrangement from the British Royal Family
. After some 4 years of being officially separated, the Duke and Duchess made the mutual decision to divorce in 1996. The Duke and Duchess of York remain close friends and share in the upbringing of their two daughters.
After the divorce
After her divorce the press criticism was constant, focusing not only on her weight (tabloid headline writers tagged her 'the Duchess of Pork') but also on her lifestyle and perceived extravagance. Having forgone a large divorce settlement in the hope of maintaining a civil relationship with the royal family, the Duchess set out in 1996 to establish a commercial and media career in the United States. She felt strongly that she should not work commercially in Britain and opted to commute regularly between her home outside London and paid commitments in the US. In 1996, at the time of her divorce from Prince Andrew, it is said that Fergie owed in excess of £4.2 million pounds to Coutts
, the Royal Bank. Through lucrative American contracts she had cleared these debts by 1998.
Having lost weight and discovered new confidence, Sarah felt able to pass on her experience to others as the U.S. spokesperson for Weight Watchers International. The Duchess also brought attention to child obesity and called for efforts to address this problem.
Sarah’s other commercial interests have included Wedgwood china, home fragrances for U.S. retailer Bath & Body Works, and a signature line of Moissanite jewelry for K&G. Sarah is also a sought-after public speaker represented by the prestigious Washington Speakers Bureau. Over the course of several years, these activities, as well as the success of her many books, allowed Sarah to overcome the multi-million pound debts she amassed in the 80s and 90s.
Sarah commented in 2003, "I love the fact that [Americans] embrace me. I said I was sorry for whatever I had done in the UK, and they embraced me and said, OK, we'll give you a second chance. And they have given me my life back, the American people. She now receives fewer intrusive and unflattering media reports in the UK.
Until 2004 the Duke and Duchess shared the family’s home, Sunninghill Park, located outside London. That same year, the Duke moved to the refurbished Royal Lodge, the former home of the Queen Mother, who resided there until her death in 2002. In 2007 the Duchess purchased Dolphin House, a mansion which neighbours Royal Lodge, placing the Duke and Duchess of York as next door neighbors. The Duchess also owns a penthouse apartment along Central Park South in Manhattan.
When Sarah's mother Susan Barrantes died in 1998, it was disclosed that not only had Sarah always contributed to Ms. Barrantes' ranch in Argentina, she had also split her divorce money with her mother. Ms. Barrantes had struggled for years to keep her late husband's polo farm. Sarah and her sister Jane have cleared the debts.
Known boyfriends have included John Bryan, and Count Gaddo della Gheradesca.
In August 2008, The Duchess of York was invited by The Queen to spend a weekend with her at the Royal Family's summer retreat, Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The invitiation was a breakthrough in the relationship between the Duchess of York and the Royal Family. The weekend of holidaying with the Queen was to celebrate Princess Beatrice's birthday.
- 1993, the Duchess founded Children in Crisis based in London with the support of two current trustees: Grahame Harding and Paul Szkiler. Over the years, Children in Crisis has grown to help over 250,000 children annually in 10 countries around the world.
- March 2003, she joined the American Cancer Society at a congressional briefing. The Duchess was a founding supporter of The American Cancer Society’s Great American Weigh In, an annual campaign (modeled after the Society’s Great American Smoke Out) aimed at raising awareness of the link between excess weight and cancer.
- 2005, the Duchess was named a global ambassador for Ronald McDonald House.
- 2006, the Duchess established The Sarah Ferguson Foundationbased in New York, which derives funds from the Duchess’s commercial work and private donations with the aim of supporting charities internationally that serve children and families in dire need. She visited China, Japan, Poland, Mexico, and cities across the United States.
- 2007, the Duchess is continuing her multi-continent fund-raising and media tour in the US.
- In Britain, the Duchess is a long-standing patron to a number of British charities, including the Teenage Cancer Trust, Tommy's , and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
- She is also the official spokesperson of SOS Children's Villages - USA.
- Budgie the Little Helicopter books and animated children’s television programme:
- 1989, Budgie the Little Helicopter
- 1989, Budgie at Bendick's Point
- 1991, Budgie and the Blizzard
- 1992, The Adventures of Budgie
- 1993, Budgie Goes to Sea
- 1996, Budgie's Book of Colors
- 1996, Budgie and Pippa Count to Ten!
- 1995, Travels with Queen Victoria
- 1996, My Story (autobiography)
- For young girls:
- 1997, The Royal Switch
- 1997, Bright Lights
- Lifestyle books with Weight Watchers:
- 1998, Dining with The Duchess
- 1999, Dieting with The Duchess
- 2000, Win the Weight Game
- 2001, Reinventing Yourself
- 2002, Energy Breakthrough
- 2003, What I Know Now: Simple Lessons Learned the Hard Way
- 2003, Reflections. An accomplished amateur photographer, The Duchess published a collection of images in an art book, sold only in Britain, with all proceeds benefiting her UK-based charity, Children in Crisis.
- 2003, Little Red
- 2004, Little Red’s Christmas Story
- 2006, Little Red’s Summer Adventure
- Early 2008, Hartmoor, Sarah's first historical romance novel set in 1812. (St. Martins Press)
- May 2004, the Duchess hosted an eleven-minute production featurette on Universal’s DVD ‘The Legacy of Pan.’
- October 2004, Walt Disney Feature Animation released a special DVD 'The Cat That Looked At A King', with the Duchess’s voice in the role of the Queen. The story is derived from the books of Mary Poppins by P.L Travers.
- The Duchess of York will have a producing role in the latest Martin Scorsese film about the early years of Queen Victoria’s rule, The Young Victoria. The movie, to be scripted by Julian Fellowes, who wrote Gosford Park, will focus on the often turbulent period after she became queen at the age of 18, and her romance and marriage to Prince Albert. Film production is due to begin by mid-2007.
TV and Radio
- Health advisor in 'The Duchess In Hull,' ITV1.
- In the United Kingdom:
- Guest editor on BBC Radio 4 Today program.
- Regular contributor to BBC Radio 2’s primetime lifestyle show Steve Wright.
- Previously co-produced and served as presenter in a documentary for BBC television called In Search of the Spirit.
- 1998, hosted an 8-part panel talk show on Britain’s SkyOne television.
- Appeared in an episode of the Vicar of Dibley.
- In the United States:
- 1989, the Duchess' marriage is mentioned in the Sue Townsend book Adrian Mole: The true confessions of. It mentions Mr. Mole calling Buckingham palace and asking for the Duchess, and also him sending her a note to meet him outside the gates of Buckingham Palace to run away with him as she is his soul mate.
- 1992, in the Bottom episode "Digger," the Duchess is rejected with great disgust as a potential match for Eddie when visiting a dating service, giving an outcry of "Do you mind?! I'm a respectable man!"
- 1995 onwards, the character of The Girlfriend in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake is thought to be based on, or has similarities to (in terms of her acceptance by the rest of the Royal Family) the Duchess
- May 1998, appeared as herself in an episode of the television show Friends when Ross Geller was married in London during the show's fourth season finalé. She was erroneously credited as "Sarah, The Duchess of York".
- May 2000, in the American sitcom Will & Grace episode "My Best Friend's Tush," the characters Grace Adler (Debra Messing) and Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) visit a taco restaurant to find Helena Barnes (Joan Collins) while there, Karen, under her alias Anastasia Beaverhousen, claims to see "The Duchess of York". In shock, Grace asks "Do you think that Weight Watchers knows about this?"
- 2006, the title of R&B/Hip Hop singer Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson's debut album, The Dutchess was a reference to the fact that the two share the same surname. According to various media outlets, Sarah Ferguson called Fergie after the release of her album and remarked: "Fergie, it's Fergie... Now that you've done this, you have to sing at a concert for my foundation, 'Children in Crisis'. Fergie agreed and committed to two charity concerts, in London and New York City.
- November 2006, The Duchess was honored for her AIDS campaigning at the New York AIDS Film Festival
- February 2007, The Duchess was named Mother of the Year by the American Cancer Society.
- In 2008, on the American daytime soap opera All My Children, one of the characters, Carmen Morales asks the primary character Erica Kane, if she had ever met Fergie. Erica said that she had, assuming that Carmen was talking about Sarah Ferguson. However, Carmen meant "Fergie, the singer."
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 15 October 1959 – 23 July 1986: Miss Sarah Ferguson
- 23 July 1986 – 30 May 1996: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York
- 30 May 1996 – present: Sarah, Duchess of York
Sarah Ferguson's full style during her marriage was Her Royal Highness, The Princess Andrew Albert Christian Edward, Duchess of York, Countess of Inverness and Baroness Killyleagh