Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 12:08 UK

Duchess of York in the headlines again

Sarah Ferguson
The Duchess of York has had debt problems but is "resilient"

The Duchess of York, who has been filmed allegedly offering to sell access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew, has continued to stay in the headlines since her divorce in 1996 - often because of her financial affairs.

During her marriage, she threw herself into charity work but apparently found the transition from independent working woman to royal wife and mother a difficult one.

She was frequently criticised in the press for her apparent exploitation of her position.

The Duchess's two greatest weaknesses - money and her complete lack of guile - made her an obvious target for the tabloid sting
Gordon Rayner, Telegraph

"Freebie Fergie" was pilloried for taking countless holidays and selling family photos to a magazine.

In 1992, scandalous photographs showing the duchess's financial advisor allegedly sucking her toes were published in the media.

She effectively left the Royal Family the same morning.


The duchess moved to a smaller house, took up painting and therapy and became more involved in championing charities and worthy causes.

The Duchess of York, Prince Andrew, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie
The duchess and her husband have remained on good terms

But by 1995 she had fallen more than £4m in debt, and the Queen took the unusual step of publicly closing her purse to her daughter-in-law.

The duchess instead made a series of lucrative deals with overseas companies and cleared her debts.

She became an ambassador for weight loss company Weightwatchers in the US, and a spokesperson for cosmetics brand Avon and china company Waterford-Wedgwood.

And although her spell as a television chat show hostess was short-lived, a career as an author, a soft-drinks commercial and numerous other ventures helped reinvent her as a businesswoman.

The duchess spoke of her relationship with the UK press during interviews on American television, where she was perceived in a more favourable light.

In 2003, she told CNN: "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."

Weight problems

She resumed a cordial relationship with Prince Andrew, and she and her daughters moved back into a wing of the couple's former marital home.

She earned thousands of dollars as a speaker, had a cameo role on the American sitcom Friends and took part in The Celebrity Apprentice.

She also set up the charitable Sarah Ferguson Foundation and produced the film Young Victoria.

In 2004, she discussed her own weight problems, and during a slot as guest editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme she warned of the problems child obesity could cause.

Sarah Ferguson
I could live in a council house and below the benefit line, of course
Duchess of York

In 2008, she spent six months with a family of six living on benefits in Hull for an ITV documentary.

Later, while promoting the two-part programme, she said: "I could live in a council house and below the benefit line, of course. Anyone could."

Later that year she was forced to defend herself after a Turkish minister accused her of smearing the country's image following a separate documentary about orphanages.

And in August 2009, she was forced to defend another of her programmes.

Residents of Northern Moor in Wythenshaw were infuriated by her portrayal of life on the estate and claimed it had wrongly been held up as an example of "broken Britain" by the programme-makers.

In September last year, she settled three outstanding bills after her creditors went to court citing unpaid accounts worth approximately £21,539.

At the time, her spokeswoman denied the duchess had financial worries.

But as the duchess celebrated her 50th birthday a month later, it emerged that Hartmoor LLC, the US company in which she had a 51% stake, was to be wound up owing more than $1m (£630,000).

At the time, her spokeswoman said the duchess was "resilient" and would "bounce back".

The duchess is also facing a High Court battle with the law firm Davenport Lyons which is seeking to recover approximately £200,000 from her in unpaid bills.


The duchess still supports a number of charities, raising money for underprivileged children and drawing attention to the plight of young people caught in war-zones abroad.

She also continues to be heavily involved with the charity Children in Crisis - which she set up in 1993, and is a patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust, Tommy's Baby Charity and Motor Neurone Disease Association.

And according to the News of the World in the recording filmed this month, the duchess allegedly requested a 1% donation of profits from any business deals to be given to her charity.

But she allegedly told the reporter: "I have not got a bean to my name.

"I'm a taxpayer, a British taxpayer and I left the Royal Family for freedom and in freedom it means I am bereft. I'm hopeless."

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