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Duchess of York (more)

Spouse Prince Andrew, Duke of York
(m. 1986, div. 1996)
Princess Beatrice of York
Princess Eugenie of York
Full name
Sarah Margaret
House House of Windsor
Father Maj Ronald Ferguson
Mother Susan Barrantes (née Wright)
Born 15 October 1959 (1959-10-15) (age 57)
Marylebone, London, England
Occupation Charity patron, spokesperson, writer, film producer, television personality
Religion Anglican (Church of England)

Sarah, Duchess of York (Sarah Margaret; née Ferguson; born 15 October 1959) is a British charity patron, spokesperson, writer, film producer, television personality and member of the British Royal Family. She is the former wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, to whom she was married from 1986 to 1996. She is often popularly referred to as "Fergie", a common nickname for people named Ferguson.

The Duchess is the younger daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson and Susan Barrantes (née Wright), both now deceased. Her children, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, are respectively fifth and sixth in the line of succession to the thrones of 16 independent Commonwealth realm states.

Early lifeEdit

Sarah Margaret Ferguson is the second daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson and his first wife, Susan Mary Wright. Sarah's older sister is Jane Ferguson Luedecke, a public relations executive now living and working in Australia. After Sarah's parents divorced in 1972, her mother married polo player Hector Barrantesd and moved to Trenque Lauquen in the Argentine pampas. Sarah stayed at the 480-acre (1.9 km2) Dummer Down Farm at Dummer, Hampshire, her father's home since age 8. Major Ferguson remarried and had three more children.


Sarah attended a senior boarding school that specialised in ballet.


After finishing a course at Queen's Secretarial College at the age of eighteen, Sarah went to work in a public relations firm in London. Later she worked for an art gallery, and then a publishing company.

Personal lifeEdit

During her marriage, the tabloid press ridiculed the Duchess after her weight climbed to 15 stone 10 pounds (100 kg) (220 lbs) labeling her unflattering as the "Duchess of Pork".

Engagement and marriageEdit

See Engagement of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson

On 17 March 1986, Prince Andrew, (the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and fourth in line to the throne) and Sarah Ferguson announced their engagement, having met at a party at Windsor Castle the previous year.

After securing the Queen's permission (which is required by a British law, the Royal Marriages Act 1772, for children of the monarch) Andrew and Sarah were married in Westminster Abbey on 23 July 1986. The Queen bestowed the title Duke of York upon Prince Andrew, and as his new wife Sarah automatically assumed her husband's royal and ducal status and became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York. With her marriage, she attained the rank of Princess of the United Kingdom, which was lost upon her divorce.

Separation and divorceEdit

By 1991, the marriage was in trouble, and the couple had drifted apart. While her husband was away on naval or royal duties, the Duchess was frequently seen in the company of other men, notably Texan multimillionaire Steve Wyatt. Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York finally announced their separation on 19 March 1992.

In August 1992, surreptitiously-taken photographs of the Duchess sunbathing topless with John Bryan, an American financial manager, were published in the British tabloid Daily Mirror. The Duchess endured widespread public ridicule contributing to her further estrangement from the British Royal Family. After four years of official separation, the Duke and Duchess announced the mutual decision to divorce in 1996.


The couple became parents on 8 August 1988 with the birth of daughter, Beatrice.

Their second child, another daughter, Eugenie, was born on 23 March 1990.

After the divorceEdit

After her divorce, the British tabloids became critical of Sarah's notably open extravagance and lifestyle. The Duchess has asserted that she declined to press for a large divorce settlement, in order to maintain cordial relations with the British Royal Family; her actual settlement included £350,000 in cash provided by the Queen which had no restrictions on its use and £500,000 provided by the Queen for purchase of a home without restriction. In addition, Sarah was not compelled to sign confidentiality agreements as part of her marital dissolution, allowing her to profit by writing of her former life in the Royal family; this paved the way for her to receive £2.2 million from writing her (first) autobiography. Sarah became a U.S. spokesperson for Weight Watchers International in 1997, a contractual relationship that concluded in 2008. Sarah's other commercial interests have included endorsement and product development for Wedgwood china and Avon. She is also a public speaker represented by agencies such as The National Speakers Bureau. Sarah's speeches cover subjects ranging from empowerment and personal growth to health advocacy and international charity.

Sarah was scheduled to meet with her Chances for Children charity at the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, but her limousine arrived at the area late as charity staffers were waiting for Sarah at the lobby. American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower seconds before Sarah and her entourage arrived, and immediately they left along with Chances for Children staffers.

Until 2004, the Duke of York and his former wife shared the family’s home, Sunninghill Park in Berkshire. That same year, the Duke moved to the refurbished Royal Lodge, previously the home of his grandmother, who resided there until her death in 2002. In 2007, the Duchess rented Dolphin House, and became next door neighbors with her ex-husband. In 2008, a fire broke out at Dolphin House causing Sarah to vacate the premises and move into Royal Lodge with her former husband, the Duke of York.

According to some sources, Duchess had split her divorce settlement with her mother and had also contributed financially to the upkeep of the Barrantes ranch in Argentina.

In 2009, Sarah participated in a much-criticized ITV "experiment" in which Sarah joined families in a council estate (public housing) to provide advice to them on proper living. She stayed for ten days in Northern Moor, a suburb area in Wythenshawe, Manchester, England, and the result was The Duchess on the Estate, transmitted on ITV1 on 18 August 2009. It was considered a "hatchet job". A previous, similar television venture, "The Duchess In Hull" in which Sarah advised lower-income families on proper diet and behavior received similar criticism. Subsequent to the "cash for access" scandal (see next section,) Sarah was not among the 1,900 people who received an invitation to the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Cash for AccessEdit

In May 2010, Sarah was filmed by News of the World offering access to Prince Andrew for £500,000 by Mazher Mahmood, an undercover reporter posing as an Indian businessman. On the video made as a documentary source for the story, which is publicly available, Sarah is heard to say that "£500,000 when you can, to me, open doors". She is seen taking away a briefcase containing US$40,000 in cash. Exposure surrounding the incident increased Sarah's public profile and notoriety. For instance, Sterling Publishers substantially increased the print run of Ashley Learns About Strangers, the Duchess's latest book for children; however, the notoriety did not translate into additional book sales. Sarah excused her behavior in an interview with Oprah Winfrey by saying that that she had been drinking prior to soliciting the cash, and was "in the gutter at that moment".

Further debt problemsEdit

In April 2010, a claim against the Duchess was made by Davenport Lyons, a London firm of solicitors, for a reported £200,000 in unpaid legal fees. It was reported in August 2010 that the Duchess might declare voluntary bankruptcy with debts of £5 million, though other sources have suggested she owes about £2 million.

In March 2011 it was reported that Jeffrey Epstein had helped the Duchess avoid bankruptcy by paying off some of her debts. The payments were reportedly made after intervention from the Duke of York.

In the Summer of 2011, "Finding Sarah" aired on the OWN network. Sarah recorded this 8 part series for the network to record her journey of finding herself again. Several times throughout the show, a re-marriage to Prince Andrew was not ruled out in her future plans.

Criminal Charges and International Arrest WarrantEdit

On Friday January 13, 2012 the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Turkey issued an international arrest warrant for her. She had traveled to Turkey in 2008 and covertly filmed a Turkish State Orphanage. The Turkish authorities alleged that the Duchess made a false declaration when entering the country (in relation to her motives for visiting Turkey), trespassed into a Turkish Government institution and also invaded the privacy of children. If convicted, she faces 22 years imprisonment. Turkey and Britain have an extradition treaty, however, Home Office officials have stated "Under UK extradition law a judge must order the discharge of [an extradition request] if it is not an offense under UK law and in the country requesting extradition. In this case there is no offense in UK law so there will be no extradition". Turkish Ministry of Justice officials have stated that they will issue an International Interpol arrest warrant for the Duchess thus preventing her from traveling abroad to countries which have an extradition treaty with Turkey.

On the 17th of January 2012, the Duchess cancelled her planned trip to the United States of America for fear of being arrested and extradited to Turkey. Turkey and the United States of America are two NATO allies who have a broadly defined extradition treaty. It has been reported that the Duchess has cancelled all trips abroad for fear of being arrested and extradited to Turkey. Turkey has recently as part of its bid to join the European Union been incorporated into the European justice framework and accordingly has extradition treaties with many countries within Europe.

Turkey maintains that the Duchess distorted information about the orphanage and utilized an isolated incident in a smear campaign against the Republic of Turkey. Turkey invited international human rights organizations to inspect any orphanage of its choosing in order to show its transparency in relation to the issue.

Charity workEdit

  • 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.
  • 2003, she joined the American Cancer Society at a congressional briefing. Sarah, Duchess of York, 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.
  • 2004, Sarah, Duchess of York, was named the official spokesperson of SOS Children's Villages - USA; she is no longer affiliated with this charity.
  • 2005, Sarah, Duchess of York, was named a global ambassador for Ronald McDonald House; she is no longer affiliated with this charity.
  • 2006, Sarah, Duchess of York, established The Sarah Ferguson Foundation based in Toronto, which derives funds from Sarah's commercial work and private donations with the aim of supporting charities internationally that serve children and families in dire need. Included under this umbrella organization is her patronage of several British charities, including Mental Disability Rights International, the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
  • 2010, she became a supporter of The Mullany Fund, whose aim is to support UK students wishing to study medicine or physiotherapy.


  • Budgie the Little Helicopter books and 1994 animated children’s television series:
    • 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
  • 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. The Duchess published a collection of her photographs 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
  • 2008, Tea for Ruby
  • 2011, Finding Sarah


In May 2004, Sarah hosted an eleven-minute production feature on Universal’s DVD 'The Legacy of Pan'.

Five months later, Walt Disney Feature Animation released a special DVD The Cat That Looked at a King, with Sarah's voice in the role of the Queen; the story is derived from the Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers.

Sarah had a producing role (credited as "Sarah Ferguson") in the 2009 Jean-Marc Vallée film The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt and featured a background player role for Sarah's daughter Princess Beatrice.

TV and radioEdit

  • Health adviser in 'The Duchess In Hull' on ITV1.
  • In the United Kingdom:
    • Guest editor on BBC Radio 4 Today program.
    • Regular contributor to BBC Radio 2’s prime time lifestyle show Steve Wright.
    • Previously co-produced and served as presenter in a documentary for BBC television called In Search of the Spirit.
    • Hosted an 8-part panel talk show on Britain’s SkyOne television in 1998.
    • Appeared in an episode of the Vicar of Dibley.
    • Traveled to Romania and Turkey for the documentary, Duchess and Daughters: their secret mission, shown on ITV1 on 6 November 2008, investigating poor treatment and conditions in children's institutions in those two countries.
    • 5 March 2009 – The Graham Norton Show, BBC Two.
    • 18 August 2009 – The Duchess on the Estate, ITV1 (about Northern Moor, Manchester).
    • 1 September 2009 – Loose Women, ITV1.
  • In the United States:
    • Special correspondent to the NBC Today Show, with regular "From the Heart" segments that profile inspiring Americans who make extraordinary contributions to others despite formidable personal obstacles.
    • Substitute host for CNN’s Larry King Live.
    • Substitute host for ABC's The View.
    • Appeared as herself in the episode "The One with Ross's Wedding" of popular American sitcom Friends.
    • Appeared as herself in The Celebrity Apprentice.
    • Appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, talking about her work with Weight Watchers and her personal style.
    • Appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on 11 May 2011.
    • Appeared on mini-series on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Finding Sarah: From Royalty to the Real World, in June 2011. Talks about her struggles through life with family and finances.

Titles, styles, honors, and armsEdit

Titles and stylesEdit

  • 15 October 1959 – 23 July 1986: Miss Sarah Margaret Ferguson
  • 23 July 1986 – 30 May 1996: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York
  • 30 May 1996 – 21 August 1996: Her Royal Highness Sarah, Duchess of York
  • 21 August 1996 – present: Sarah, Duchess of York

Sarah's full title during her marriage was: Her Royal Highness The Princess Andrew Albert Christian Edward, Duchess of York, Countess of Inverness, Baroness Killyleagh.

Immediately after her divorce she retained the style Her Royal Highness; however on 21 August 1996 letters patent were issued which removed the title from divorced former wives of princes. She remained titled Sarah, Duchess of York in keeping with the standard form of address for former wives of peers. After divorce she was no longer a British princess but remained a duchess.

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