Duchess of York in trouble after undercover sting

LONDON (AP) - Oh, Fergie. Not again.
Britons shook their heads on Monday at the most recent tabloid
headlines involving Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, ex-wife of
Prince Andrew and the mother of princesses who are fifth and sixth
in line to Britain's throne.
A Sunday tabloid reported that Ferguson had offered access to
Andrew, Britain's special representative for trade and investment,
to an undercover reporter. Her price? Allegedly a half-million
pounds ($724,000), with a $40,000 down payment..
The front page read "Fergie 'sells' Andy for 500k" and the
story splashed around the world. Ferguson issued a statement
apologizing for causing embarrassment and a "serious lapse in
judgment" and said Andrew "was not aware or involved in any of
the discussions that occurred."
Ferguson, 50, was once considered a lively spark, just the thing
to brighten up Britain's staid royal family - a role she felt
unable to fulfill.
"I was never cut out for the job, and the harder I pushed, the
more things fell apart," she wrote in her 1996 memoir, "My
"Even at my dizzy height of popularity, I knew that the clock
would strike 12 and I'd be seen for what I was: unworthy,
unattractive, unaccomplished. And finally, logically, undone."
Her career in some respects ran parallel to that of Diana,
Princess of Wales. It was Diana who invited Ferguson to be Andrew's
date at Royal Ascot, leading to a marriage in 1986.
The couple separated in 1992, the same year as Prince Charles
and Diana. Ferguson and Prince Andrew divorced, amicably, in 1996,
the same year that Charles and Diana parted on less friendly terms.
Both women were stripped of the "royal highness" aspect of
their titles, but both stayed in the public spotlight.
The big difference was that Charles settled a fortune on his
ex-wife, while Ferguson complained to the News of the World that
she got just 15,000 pounds ($22,000) a year because it was based on
the income Prince Andrew earned when he was a naval officer.
Even before her split with Andrew, Ferguson made headlines - and
they weren't positive. There were reports of a romantic link in
1989 with a Texas oil tycoon. Then, in 1992, intimate photographs
of Ferguson and John Bryan, an American businessman were published
by the Daily Mirror. As the BBC dryly observes on its website, some
of the photographs "appear to show Mr. Bryan kissing the duchess'
foot." And she wasn't wearing a top.
To make it worse, Ferguson was staying with the royal family at
the their summer base, Balmoral Castle in Scotland, when the
pictures were published.
"It would be accurate to report that the porridge was getting
cold," she wrote in her memoir, ghostwritten by American sports
writer Jeff Coplon. "Eyes wide and mouths ajar, the adults were
flipping through the Daily Mirror and the rest of the tabloids -
until they saw Andrew and stopped, as it never feels quite right to
be gazing at your brother's wife when she hasn't all her clothes
"I was a royal duchess, and I had shown affection to a man not
my husband, and had been found out - end of story. No matter that
Andrew and I were separated. I had been exposed for what I truly
was. Worthless. Unfit. A national disgrace."
But tough? No kidding. On Sunday, her day of excruciating
embarrassment, Ferguson smiled and waved as she collected an award
from Variety International in Los Angeles for her work with
underprivileged children.
She works with several charities, and has been admired for
confronting her own money troubles - and after Sunday's report, she
admitted she's in difficulty again.
"It is true that my financial situation is under stress," the
statement said. "However, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in
judgment and I am very sorry that this has happened."
Recently the company set up to manage her U.S. career in
publishing, public speaking and media work, Hartmoor LLC, collapsed
with debts of around $1 million. And according to reports in
Britain, Ferguson is facing legal action over unpaid bills.
Former Daily Mirror royal reporter James Whitaker said Ferguson
had worked to pay off a multimillion pound debt "by hard work and
determination." She wrote books, produced films, and worked as a
spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.
"But eventually these sources of income dried up, leaving her
with far too little money," Whitaker wrote in the Guardian.
"People assumed she was still a big earner but they were wrong."
Christopher Wilson, a royal commentator who co-wrote "Fergie -
Her Secret Life," said Ferguson has had a "roller coaster of a
life, where she's had huge successes and these pratfalls."
"She's a fighter," he said. "At the moment it looks like she
really is reaching the end of the road, but it wouldn't surprise me
to see her bounce back."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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