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Sarah, Duchess of York (née Sarah Margaret Ferguson; 15 October 1959) is a charity patron, spokesperson, writer, film producer, television personality and former member of the British Royal Family. She was married to Queen Elizabeth II's second son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, from 1986 to 1996.

The Duchess is the daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson and Susan Barrantes (who are both deceased). Her children, Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York, are fifth and sixth in line of succession to the British Throne, respectively.

She is popularly referred to as "Fergie", as are many famous individuals with the last name Ferguson.


Although the Duchess once described her family as "country gentry with a bit of old money," she has aristocratic ancestry, being descended from both the Royal Stuart and Tudor houses. On her father's side, Sarah is a descendant of King Charles II of England via two of his illegitimate sons, Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, and James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. She is a second great-granddaughter of William Montagu Douglas Scott, 6th Duke of Buccleuch and a great-granddaughter of Mervyn Wingfield, 8th Viscount Powerscourt. Her paternal grandmother was Marian Louisa Montagu Douglas Scott, a first cousin of Lady Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott, who became, after her wedding to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester and an aunt-by-marriage of Queen Elizabeth.


Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew's romance began as a result of some scheming by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1985 . Early in 1986, the couple were engaged, and they married in Westminster Abbeymarker on 23 July 1986. The Queen bestowed the title of Duke of York upon Prince Andrew. Sarah automatically assumed her husband's royal and ducal status and became Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York. She did not automatically assume the style of Princess of the United Kingdom which is not automatically conferred with marriage.

The Duke and Duchess of York had two children during their marriage:

End of the marriage

By 1992, 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 Texanmarker 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 — apparently in the act of sucking 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 4 years of official separation, the Duke and Duchess made the mutual decision to divorce in 1996. They have, however, remained close and have shared in the upbringing and support of their two daughters.

After the divorce

During her marriage, she was once referred to as 'the Duchess of Pork' and she was constantly ridiculed on account of her appearance. Her lifestyle and perceived extravagance were also strongly criticised. After the divorce, press criticism of the Duchess was constant. Having forgone a large divorce settlement in the hope of maintaining a civil relationship with the royal family, the Duchess set out to establish a commercial and media career in the United Statesmarker. She felt strongly that she should not work commercially in Britain and opted to commute regularly between her home outside London and her commitments in the US. In 1996, at the time of her divorce from Prince Andrew, it was said that she 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, the Duchess became U.S. spokesperson for Weight Watchers International. She also brought attention to child obesity and called for efforts to address this problem.

The Duchess's other commercial interests have included endorsement and product development for consumer brands such as Wedgwood china and Avon. She is also a public speaker represented by agencies such as the Washington Speakers Bureau. Her speeches cover subjects ranging from empowerment and personal growth to health advocacy and international charity. Over the course of several years, these activities, as well as the success of her twenty-six books, have allowed the Duchess to more than overcome the multi-million pound debts she amassed in the 80s and 90s.

In 2003, the Duchess commented, "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 of York and his former wife shared the family’s home, Sunninghill Parkmarker, located outside London. That same year, the Duke moved to the refurbished Royal Lodgemarker, previously the home of his grandmother, who resided there until her death in 2002. In 2007, the Duchess rented Dolphin House, so that the Duke and Duchess are now next-door neighbours. However, in 2008 fire broke out in the Duchess' home and she vacated the residence, moving into Royal Lodge with the Duke of York, placing the two once again in the same home.

When the Duchess's mother, Susan Barrantes, died in 1998, it was revealed that the Duchess had split her divorce settlement with her mother and had also contributed financially to the upkeep of the Barrantes ranch in Argentina, since Susan Barrantes had been struggling for years to keep her late husband's polo farm. The Duchess and her sister Jane have cleared the debts.

The Duchess's known boyfriends have included John Bryan and Count Gaddo della Gheradesca.

In August 2008, the Duchess was invited by The Queen to spend a weekend with her at the Royal Family's summer retreat, Balmoral Castlemarker in Scotland. The invitation was a breakthrough in the long-chilly relationship between the Duchess and the Royal Family. The holiday weekend was intended to celebrate Princess Beatrice's birthday.

The Duchess' continued close relationship with her ex-husband has prompted speculation over the years since their divorce that the two may one day remarry. At one time, the Duchess was quick to quash such rumours, saying in 2004, "We get on so well. But we will never remarry."In recent years, however, the Duchess appears to have become more amenable to the idea. In an April 2009 interview with Britain's Saga Magazine, she called Andrew "the most wonderful man in the world" and when asked about a possible reconciliation, answered, "As you get older and wiser, maybe you feel differently about things. We'll have to see."

Charity work

  • 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. 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.
  • 2005, Sarah, Duchess of York, was named a global ambassador for Ronald McDonald House..
  • 2006, Sarah, Duchess of York, established The Sarah Ferguson Foundation based in New York, 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. She visited China, Japan, Poland, Mexico, and cities across the United States.
  • In 2009 she stayed for ten days in Northern Moormarker, a suburb area in Wythenshawemarker, Manchestermarker, England, and filmed there. Her report on the area caused criticism.
  • In Britain, Sarah, Duchess of York, 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 also serves as an advocate for Mental Disability Rights International.


Sarah and her daughters in 2004
  • 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
  • 2008, Tea for Ruby


May 2004, Sarah, Duchess of York, 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 Sarah's voice in the role of the Queen. The story is derived from the books of Mary Poppins by P.L Travers.Sarah had a producing role (credited as "Sarah Ferguson") in the 2009 Martin Scorsese film about the early years of Queen Victoria’s rule, The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt. The movie, scripted by Julian Fellowes, who wrote Gosford Park, focuses on the often turbulent period after she became queen at the age of 18, and her romance and marriage to Prince Albert.

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.
    • Traveled to Romania and Turkey for a 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
    • 1 September 2009 - Loose Women, ITV1

  • In the United States:

Cultural references

  • 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 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, Sarah, Duchess of York, was honored for her AIDS campaigning at the New York AIDS Film Festival.
  • February 2007, Sarah, Duchess of York, 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, Baroness Killyleagh.


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