Sarah, Duchess of York (Sarah Margaret; née Ferguson; born 15 October 1959) is the former wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York. She is a charity patronspokesperson, writer, film producer and television personality. She is often popularly referred to as "Fergie".

The Duchess is the younger daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson and Susan Barrantes (née Wright). 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 realms.

Early life [edit]Edit

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 1974, her mother married polo player Hector Barrantes 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 Daneshill SchoolStratfield Turgis and then Hurst Lodge School, Ascot. 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.

Marriage to Prince AndrewEdit

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. Prince Andrew had known Miss Ferguson since childhood, and they had met occasionally at polo matches, and became re-acquainted with each other at Royal Ascot in 1985. 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.

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.

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. 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".

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 May 1996.

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 August 1996, Letters patent were issued with general rules to regulate royal titles after divorce. In accordance, as she was no longer married to the Duke of York, Sarah lost the style Her Royal Highness. 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".

After 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.

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