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Sarah, Duchess of York

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Title: Sarah, Duchess of York  
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Subject: Ronald Ferguson, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, The One with Ross's Wedding, British Royal Family, Charles II of England
Collection: 1959 Births, British Duchesses by Marriage, British People of English Descent, British Princesses by Marriage, Chancellors of the University of Salford, Duchesses of York, English Anglicans, English Children's Writers, English Film Producers, House of Windsor, Living People, Mountbatten-Windsor Family, Participants in American Reality Television Series, People Educated at Hurst Lodge School, People from Marylebone, People from Sunninghill, Recipients of the Order of the Smile
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Sarah, Duchess of York

Duchess of York (more)
The Duchess in 2008
Born (1959-10-15) 15 October 1959
27 Welbeck Street, London, England[1]
Spouse Prince Andrew, Duke of York
(m. 1986; div. 1996)
Issue Princess Beatrice of York
Princess Eugenie of York
Full name
Sarah Margaret[2]
House House of Windsor (by marriage)
Father Ronald Ferguson
Mother Susan Barrantes
Religion Church of England
Occupation Writer, spokesperson, film producer, television personality

Sarah, Duchess of York (Sarah Margaret; née Ferguson; born 15 October 1959) is a British writer, charity patron, public speaker, film producer and television personality. Popularly referred to as "Fergie", she is the former wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[3][4] She is the younger daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson and Susan Barrantes (née Wright). Her children, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, are respectively seventh and eighth in line to succeed their grandmother as monarch of 16 independent Commonwealth realms.


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage to Prince Andrew 2
  • Personal life after divorce 3
    • Cash for access 3.1
    • Further debt problems 3.2
    • Criminal charges and international arrest warrant 3.3
  • Charity work 4
  • Books 5
  • Film 6
  • TV and radio 7
  • Cultural references 8
  • Titles, styles, honours and arms 9
    • Titles and styles 9.1
    • Honours 9.2
      • Appointments 9.2.1
    • Arms 9.3
  • Issue 10
  • Ancestry 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Early life

Sarah Margaret Ferguson is the second daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson[5] and his first wife, Susan Mary Wright.[6] Sarah's older sister is Jane Ferguson Luedecke, a public relations executive now living and working in Australia. After Sarah's parents divorced in 1974, her mother married polo player Hector Barrantes[7] 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.[8] Major Ferguson married Susan Deptford and had three more children.

Sarah attended Daneshill School, Stratfield Turgis and then Hurst Lodge School, Ascot.[9] After finishing a course at Queen's Secretarial College at the age of eighteen,[10] Sarah went to work in a public relations firm in London. Later she worked for an art gallery, and then a publishing company.

Marriage to Prince Andrew

The Duke and Duchess of York on their wedding day.

On 17 March 1986,[11] Prince Andrew, (the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and fourth in line to the throne at the time) and Sarah Ferguson announced their engagement.[12] Prince Andrew had known Ferguson since childhood, and they had met occasionally at polo matches, and became re-acquainted with each other at Royal Ascot in 1985.[13] He designed an engagement ring consisting of ten diamonds surrounding a Burmese ruby for her. He chose the Burmese ruby to complement her fiery red hair.[14]

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.

The Duchess of York at the Royal Welsh Show, 1991

The couple became parents on 8 August 1988, with the birth of their daughter, Beatrice. Their second child, another daughter, Eugenie, was born on 23 March 1990.[15] During her marriage, the tabloid press ridiculed the Duchess after her weight climbed to 15 stone 10 pounds (100 kg) (220 lbs) labelling her unflatteringly as the "Duchess of Pork".[16]

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.[17] The Duke and Duchess of York finally announced their separation on 19 March 1992.[18]

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.[19] After four years of official separation, the Duke and Duchess announced the mutual decision to divorce in May 1996.[20]

By her divorce on 30 May 1996, she retained the style Her Royal Highness with the style of other divorced peeresses, eliminating the preface "The" before "Duchess of York". However, in accordance with letters patent issued in August 1996 regulating post-divorce royal titles, Sarah ceased being a Royal Highness, as she was no longer married to the Duke of York.[21] Her current name, thus, is Sarah, Duchess of York. Should she marry again, Sarah would lose the use of the style of "Duchess of York".

Since the divorce, Sarah still attends some functions with her daughters, such as the investiture of the Duke of York into the Royal Victorian Order, on which occasions she is afforded the courtesy of treatment as a member of the Royal Family, although the Lord Chamberlain's Diamond Jubilee Guidelines mention the Duchess specifically as being a member of the Royal Family in her own right.[3][4]

Personal life after divorce

Sarah, Duchess of York, and Elizabeth Nabel pose for a picture backstage at The Heart Truth Red Dress Collection Fashion Show, 4 February 2005.

After her divorce, the British tabloids became critical of Sarah's notably open extravagance and lifestyle.[22][23][24] The Duchess's commercial interests have included an eleven-year endorsement with Weight Watchers, product development and promotion with Wedgwood and Avon.[25]

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 neighbours 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.

In 2009, Sarah participated in a much-criticized ITV "experiment"[26] 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. A previous, similar television venture, The Duchess in Hull in which Sarah advised lower-income families on proper diet and behaviour received similar criticism.[27]

Subsequent to the "Cash for access" scandal (below), Sarah was not among the 1,900 people who received an invitation to the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.[28]

In August 2013, Sarah was invited to stay at Balmoral Castle with Andrew and their daughters as guests of the Queen, and in September 2013, in response to a question about the possibility of remarrying Andrew, Sarah said "He’s still my handsome prince, he’ll always be my handsome prince."[29][30]

In 2015, the Duchess assumed residence in Verbier, Switzerland, where she and the Duke of York own a chalet, and maintains a rented apartment in Eaton Square in London and a room at Royal Lodge.

Cash for access

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.[31] 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".[32] She is seen taking away a briefcase containing US$40,000 in cash. Exposure surrounding the incident increased Sarah's public profile and notoriety. 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.[33] In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Sarah explained her behaviour by saying that she had been drinking prior to soliciting the cash, and was "in the gutter at that moment".[34]

Further debt problems

Sarah, Duchess of York, at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival

It was reported in August 2010, that the Duchess might declare voluntary bankruptcy with debts of £5 million,[35] though other sources have suggested she owes about £2 million.[36]

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.[37] In the summer of 2011, Finding Sarah aired on the OWN network. One episode of the U.S.-filmed reality series depicted Sarah meeting with Suze Orman, the internationally-known financial advisor, receiving from Orman a strict lecture and practical advice on how to resolve her financial issues.[38]

Criminal charges and international arrest warrant

On 13 January 2012, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Turkey issued an international arrest warrant for the Duchess. She had travelled 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.[39] These charges carry sentences of up to 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 offence under UK law and in the country requesting extradition. In this case there is no offence in UK law so there will be no extradition".[40]

Turkey maintains that the Duchess distorted information about the orphanage and used an isolated incident in a smear campaign against the Republic of Turkey. Turkey invited international human rights organisations to inspect any orphanage of its choosing to show its transparency in relation to the issue.[41][42]

On 5 May 2012, the trial began into the charges brought by the Ankara State Prosecutor's office. Cansu Sahin, representing Ferguson, who was not present, told the Ankara court that his client has apologised and would like to plea bargain with the prosecution.[43][44]

Charity work

In 1990, The Duchess became patron of The Teenage Cancer Trust and has since opened most of the charities various units, including those at Middlesex Hospital, University College London, St James’s University Hospital, Cardiff University Hospital and Royal Marsden Hospital[45]

In 1993, The Duchess founded Mental Disability Rights International,[49] the Teenage Cancer Trust,[50] Tommy's,[51] and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.[52] In 2008, The Duchess became patron of Humanitas, a charity focused on providing children with education, healthcare and family support[53] In 2010, The Duchess became a supporter of The Mullany Fund,[54] whose aim is to support British students wishing to study medicine or physiotherapy. In 2011, The Duchess became the global ambassador for Not For Sale, a charity focused on human slavery.[55] In 2013, The Duchess, along with her former husband, The Duke of York and their daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, founded Key To Freedom, a business structure for women in vulnerable situations in India who can sell their wares through the British retailer Top Shop. In 2014, The Duchess was appointed an ambassador for the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London.[56]


Sarah and her daughters in 2004
  • Budgie the Little Helicopter books and 1994 animated children's television series:
    • 1989, Budgie the Little Helicopter ISBN 978-0671676834
    • 1989, Budgie at Bendick's Point ISBN 978-0689808494
    • 1991, Budgie and the Blizzard
    • 1992, The Adventures of Budgie ISBN 978-0671792497
    • 1995, Budgie Books - S and S USA ISBN 978-0750096638
    • 1996, Budgie Goes to Sea ISBN 978-0689808500
  • For young girls:
    • 1997, The Royal Switch ISBN 978-0440412137
    • 1997, Bright Lights ISBN 978-0440412168
  • Lifestyle books with Weight Watchers:
    • 1998, Dieting with The Duchess ISBN 978-0684857459
    • 1999, Dining with The Duchess ISBN 978-0684852164
    • 2000, Win the Weight Game ISBN 978-0684870786
    • 2001, Reinventing Yourself with the Duchess of York ISBN 978-1439146194
    • 2002, Energy Breakthrough: Jump-start Your Weight Loss and Feel Great ISBN 978-0743232869
  • Little Red series:
    • 2003, Little Red ISBN 978-1416918530
    • 2004, Little Red’s Christmas Story ISBN 978-1442430761
    • 2006, Little Red’s Summer Adventure ISBN 978-0689875717
    • 2009, Little Red to the Rescue ISBN 978-0689875656
    • 2009, Little Red's Autumn Adventure ISBN 978-0689843419
  • Helping Hand Books:
    • 2007, Get Well Soon, Adam ISBN 978-1402774010
    • 2007, Lauren's Moving Day ISBN 978-1402773983
    • 2007, Healthy Food for Dylan ISBN 978-1402774003
    • 2010, Ashley Learns about Strangers ISBN 978-1402773938
    • 2010, Emily's First Day of School ISBN 978-1402773921
    • 2010, Michael and His New Baby Brother ISBN 978-1402773907
    • 2010, Matthew and the Bullies, ISBN 978-1402773914
    • 2011, When Katie's Parents Separated ISBN 978-1402773952
    • 2011, Zach Gets Some Exercise ISBN 978-1402773990
    • 2011, Jacob Goes to the Doctor and Sophie Visits the Dentist ISBN 978-1402773969
    • 2011, Molly Makes Friends ISBN 978-1402773976
    • 2011, Olivia Says Goodbye to Grandpa ISBN 978-1402773945
  • About Queen Victoria:
    • 1991, Victoria and Albert: A Family Life at Osborne House ISBN 978-0139508820
    • 1993, Travels with Queen Victoria ISBN 978-0297831952
  • 1988, A Guard Within ISBN 978-0394758343
  • 1989, Skiing from the Inside: The Self-help Guide to Mastering the Slopes ISBN 978-0671697112
  • 1997, My Story (autobiography) ISBN 978-0671004392
  • 2003, What I Know Now: Simple Lessons Learned the Hard Way ISBN 978-1416578413
  • 2003, Moments. 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.
  • 2008, Tea for Ruby ISBN 978-1442426337
  • 2008, Hartmoor, ISBN 978-1405054126
  • 2011, Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself ISBN 978-1439189559
  • 2012, Ballerina Rosie ISBN 978-1442430679


In May 2004, Sarah hosted an eleven-minute production featurette 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.[57][58]

TV and radio

  • Health advisor in "The Duchess in Hull" on ITV1.
  • In the United Kingdom:
    • Guest editor on BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
    • Regular contributor to BBC Radio 2's primetime lifestyle show Steve Wright.[59]
    • Previously co-produced and served as presenter in a documentary for BBC television called In Search of the Spirit.[60]
    • Hosted an 8-part panel talk show on Britain's SkyOne television in 1998.
    • Appeared in an episode of the Vicar of Dibley.[61]
    • Travelled 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.[62]
    • 5 March 2009 – The Graham Norton Show, BBC Two.[63]
    • 18 August 2009 – The Duchess on the Estate, ITV1 (about Northern Moor, Manchester).[64]
    • 1 September 2009 – Loose Women, ITV1.[65]

Cultural references

  • The 2006 title of R&B/Hip Hop singer Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson's debut album, The Dutchess (dutchess is a variant spelling of duchess dating to the 17th century[73]) was a reference to the fact that the two are associated with the same surname. According to various media outlets, the Duchess of York 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'."[74] Fergie agreed and committed to charity concerts in London and New York City.
  • In November 2006, Sarah was honoured for her AIDS campaigning at the New York AIDS Film Festival.
  • In February 2007, Sarah was named Mother of the Year by the American Cancer Society.[75]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 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

Upon marriage, Sarah became Her Royal Highness The Princess Andrew, Duchess of York, Countess of Inverness, Baroness Killyleagh.[76][77] Immediately after her divorce she retained the style Her Royal Highness; however on 21 August 1996, letters patent were issued which removed the style from divorced former wives of princes.[21] She remained titled Sarah, Duchess of York in keeping with the standard form of address for former wives of peers.[78]


See also List of honours of the British Royal Family by country




Arms of Sarah, Duchess of York
Prior to her divorce, Sarah's coat of arms were her father's coat of arms impaled with the arms of her then husband Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Since her divorce, Sarah's coat of arms have been her father's arms on a lozenge which hangs from a pink ribbon.[79] These are similar to her arms prior to her marriage, which were also used by her sisters.
Coronet of a Child of the Sovereign
Quarterly 1st and 4th gules three lions passant guardant in pale or 2nd or a lion rampant gules within a double tressure flory counterflory gules 3rd azure a harp or stringed argent; impaled with a shield Or, growing out of a mound between two leaves three thistle stalks Vert blossomed Purpure all conjoined in base, alighting on the middle blossom a honeybee Or and Sable winged Argent.
Dexter a lion rampant gardant Or imperially crowned proper, sinister a unicorn argent, armed, crined and unguled Or, gorged with a coronet Or composed of crosses patée and fleurs de lis a chain affixed thereto passing between the forelegs and reflexed over the back also Or.
(Latin: From adversity grows happiness)


Name Birth Marriage Issue
Princess Beatrice of York 8 August 1988
Princess Eugenie of York 23 March 1990


Sarah once described her family as "country gentry with a bit of old money". She is descended from both the 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. By her paternal great-great-grandfather Henry Brand, 2nd Viscount Hampden and her maternal great-grandfather Mervyn Wingfield, 8th Viscount Powerscourt, Sarah also descends from Lady Anne Palmer.[80][81][82][83] Lady Anne was the eldest child of Royal mistress Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland; she was acknowledged by King Charles II and adopted the surname Fitzroy.

She has aristocratic ancestry, being the great great-granddaughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York and also of Diana, Princess of Wales. Her paternal grandmother was Lady Marian Montagu Douglas Scott, a first cousin of Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott, who married Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, an uncle of Queen Elizabeth II.[84]


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  76. ^ Ferguson, Sarah (2011). Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself. New York: Atria Books. pp. 234–235.  
  77. ^ "'"It's Not Easy Keeping Titles Straight – Just Ask 'Fergie. Los Angeles Times. 24 July 1986. Retrieved 27 August 2013. Thus the former Miss Ferguson, as wife of the Duke of York, becomes the Duchess of York and could also be known as the Countess of Inverness and Baroness Killyleagh. 
  78. ^ "The Royal Family" (PDF). Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  79. ^  
  80. ^ Crofts Peerage, Powerscourt, Viscount (I, 1743)
  81. ^ Crofts Peerage, Leicester, Earl of (UK, 1837)
  82. ^ Crofts Peerage, Sussex, Earl of (E, 1674–1715)
  83. ^ Crofts Peerage, Dacre, Baron (E, 1321)
  84. ^ "Sarah, Duchess of York – Information at". Retrieved 4 May 2010. 

External links

  • Duchess Discoveries - Official website
  • Sarah Ferguson - Biography of the Duchess of York
  • Sarah, Duchess of York at the Internet Movie Database
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Edinburgh
Chancellor of the University of Salford
Succeeded by
Professor Sir Walter Bodmer
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