The Duchess of Debt

Once upon a time, following a protracted divorce from her sweet Prince Andrew in 1996, the fair Duchess of York found herself up to her tiara in debt. In an effort to pay off her £4m arrears, Sarah Fergusson became a spokesperson for Wedgewood china and WeightWatchers in America.

The Duchess, whose divorce settlement from Prince Andrew was a relatively meagre £300,000, was applauded for settling her debt without assistance from the Royal family. She established herself in the US in 2006 with the launch of Hartmoor, the Madison Avenue based firm charged with management of her budding and ostensibly lucrative career in the American media.

However, the recent demise of Hartmoor, with debts amounting to an estimated £700,000, has prompted fresh allegations of financial hardship for the Duchess. These claims appeared to gather momentum with the news that Sarah Ferguson had been planning to celebrate her 50th birthday with a lavish champagne reception at Royal Lodge in Windsor and has been forced to reign in her aspirations.  The big bash, due to have been attended by ex-husband Prince Andrew, daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and a further 300 close friends has been scaled down to an intimate gathering at a London restaurant joined by just 12 guests.

Fergie has also found herself in court three times in the past year as three firms chase unpaid debts over around £21,500. She also faces a bankruptcy petition over a £17,000 bill to image consultant and PR company office manager Richard Owen. He claims that the Duchess owes him the money for work he did to improve her image in February and March of this year. The debt threshold for a creditor petition of bankruptcy is only £750.

At the launch of Hartmoor in 2006, Sarah Fergusson told the U.S. magazine Harper’s Bazaar that she intended it to be “a global, inspirational lifestyle and wellness company.” Obviously, the cautionary tale of debt management that has emerged in the wake of the firm’s collapse could point to an element of do as the Duchess says, not always as she does.