Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself

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9781439189559: Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself

An inspirational memoir from New York Times bestselling author Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, who, after hitting rock bottom, gathered the strength to put her life back together.

More than a year ago my life was so off course that I wondered whether I would ever be able to find my way back. I was broken and lost, not even sure where I was, but out of this emotional barrenness I knew I had to find me. And so, I took a journey to find myself and begin the process of healing all the broken places. Finding Sarah is the story of that journey.

So begins this extraordinarily personal memoir by Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York. She knows, firsthand, what it means to feel lost and she also knows that it is never too late to find your way back, to attain your goal, to take back control of your life and to make a special dream come true.

Through intimate diary excerpts and personal emails from friends and family, Sarah opens herself unsparingly. On every page of this book you will hear from her “real-life angels”—Dr. Phil McGraw, Suze Orman, Martha Beck, and many more—as they help her get to the root of her problems, from comfort eating to self-loathing, from reckless overspending to notorious mishaps. Sarah hopes that her experiences will inspire you to look closely at your own life and how you wish to improve it, then encourage you to follow your instincts and find your true path. Sarah Ferguson did, and so can you.

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About the Author:

Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, is the author of the Little Red series. The Duchess is a devoted spokesperson for many charitable organizations, including Changes for Children. She has two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1 Lost

ONCE UPON A time I was a princess, married to a handsome prince, and living in a palace. But then the fairy tale began to unravel. I got divorced, started my life over with two young daughters, went broke twice, and watched my life be brutally sensationalized by the international press. I never imagined I could live so unhappily ever after.

As I write this, I am immersed in extreme personal turbulence, and I am trying to buckle up with whatever remains in my emotional and spiritual resources. The facts are these: In May 2010, my life spiraled into a private hell when I was caught unawares, on a hidden camera, accepting money from a tabloid reporter posing as an Indian business tycoon who supposedly wanted to back my various business ventures.

The whole mess started innocently enough, when I began looking for investors willing to put their capital in my business and help me rebuild a loyal following for my books, merchandising, and other enterprises. One of these projects was to build a girls’ school in Afghanistan.

Any business that needs investors or financing is usually required to produce a business plan—showing information such as financial reports, projections, and the company’s goals before receiving funding. I had a business plan—a strong one. Even so, my business had suffered in recent years because so much money had been taken up with paying wages and past bills. A repercussion of this mess was my inability to pay the wages of a longtime friend and trusted staff member. He needed that money to pay for his college tuition and room and board—to the tune of forty thousand US dollars. I wanted to help him.

In my own defense, I have always been a great one for giving. I played Santa all year round. I never saw my generosity as a fault. I got such a high from showing friends what I thought of them; it was almost addictive with me. I craved the appreciation and approval that came from pleasing other people. It was always about buying everyone’s affection. I had to be the best fun, the most generous, because obviously no one could like Sarah for who she really was.

As for keeping my businesses alive, I had no idea how I would come up with the money, since at the time I was seriously about to go bankrupt.

Financial rescue seemed in sight when my friend—the person who could not make his college expenses—and I learned that a mutual friend of ours could introduce me to an investor who would help me. The mutual friend told us that this individual was a successful, well-known businessman from India who worked for a prestigious conglomerate of companies and that he wanted to back my projects.

And indeed, when we checked, there was such a company that did have this person working for them. He was legitimate—he came highly referenced—and by all accounts, he was for real. Optimistic, I agreed to the introduction.

From that point forward, everything was set in motion, irrevocably so. I first met with this businessman at the Mark Hotel in New York City. I asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement, to which he agreed, and he would sign at the next meeting.

Several days later, I asked two of my assistants to retrieve the signed agreement. He had not signed it, however. He curled it up, and said, “I just need to give it to my lawyers.”

I smelled a powerful, foul odor that best can be described as dead rats in the basement. My instincts told me not to do it, that it wasn’t right, that I couldn’t trust him. Despite twinges of something amiss, I said to myself, “No,” because this agreement would mean I’d be able to meet my needs and take care of all the people who were important to me. I recklessly plowed forward.

Back in London, I texted the businessman to have dinner with me at Mosimann’s, a fancy wood-paneled restaurant in the shape of an octagon. Ironically, the building was once a nineteenth-century church, a place originally intended for peace and spiritual refuge.

When I arrived, I asked him if he had signed the confidentiality agreement. He said, “I’ll do it tomorrow morning.” I felt he might be waffling, but I went on with dinner anyway.

Over a meal of pea soup, a main course of lamb and vegetables, and a bottle of Burgundy, we discussed how our business venture would play out. After we finished eating, the man paid our dinner tab. I jumped into a limousine with him to travel to what he claimed was his flat in the trendy Mayfair district of London.

During our meeting, I mentioned in passing that by doing business with me, he might get to meet Prince Andrew, because the Prince and I are a team. Under no circumstances did I offer to broker an introduction to my former husband, as it has been claimed. I love Andrew to this day, as I did when I met and married him, and I would never, ever, sell him out or betray him.

Of course, the British press and international media spun the truth into a web of lies. On the now infamous, surreptitious videotape that has been broadcast around the world, you see me making a rather sloppy spectacle of myself, sipping too much wine and puffing on a cigarette. The tape was purposely cut to look like I was brokering a personal introduction. Which, as I have said, I did not do. It was edited, completely out of context, and showed the following conversation:

“Is that a deal?” he asked.

“Yes,” and I shook his hand, staring straight into his eyes. “Look after me, and he’ll look after you.”

The full sum would “open up everything,” I told him.

“I don’t want to get anybody in trouble or just ...” he said.

“But you will be his friend.”

“Great. But his job is trade, isn’t it? Isn’t it his job?”

“Yes, it is, but he meets the most amazing people.”

“Well, let’s do it.”

“He never does accept a penny for anything.”

“No, of course not, no.”

The investor produced wads of cash from a safe—forty thousand dollars—and dropped the bills down in front of me on the coffee table. Those funds represented a good-faith down payment. The other investment money would be wired to my bank account. He handed me the money in a black computer bag, and I got in my car to be taken home by my driver, Harry.

Honestly, I was elated over the business arrangement. It was all very heady and wonderful. I wanted to believe that this man would put his money to work for me, I really did.

The next day, my daughter Beatrice and I took the train up to Newcastle University to see my other daughter, Eugenie, who is a student there. We had a lovely picnic together. I was in such a great mood, relieved to be away from negativity, snuggled safely away from the pressures of everyday life.

A huge proud moment came for me that week on May 20 when Beatrice, Eugenie, and I unveiled the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, a stone’s throw from where Eugenie was studying.

I have lost friends to cancer—my father, stepfather, best friend, and grandfather. They all succumbed to this dreaded disease—and I have had scares myself, too, so this charity holds a particular place in my heart.

I have been a royal patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust for more than twenty years. Its mission is to build specialist units so that youngsters do not have to go through the frightening experience of being treated on an adult ward. It is estimated that being treated on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit increases survival rates of patients by 15 percent, and this unit, I believed, would help create miracles and beat these cancers into a hasty retreat.

In the UK, six teenagers a day are diagnosed with cancer. The world of teenage cancer can be a dark one. Teens are isolated from friends, and cut off from the normal things kids do every day. They need a place that can help them feel as “normal” as possible while being treated. When you’re a teenager, all you want is to fit in, right? This was one reason why the new unit was designed specially for thirteen-to-eighteen-year-olds and included a kitchen and dining area, a parents’ room, a complementary therapy room, and access to the Internet and television. We wanted to let these kids have as normal a life as we could give them. To not treat them as teenagers with cancer, but as teenagers who are incredibly alive.

As a patron, my job was to raise funds and awareness to fight and treat teenage cancer. We raised three million dollars for the new unit, which replaced the original six-bed Teenage Cancer Trust ward that I opened in October 1997.

I would visit with every teenager before I left; I refused to be rushed off. Being a mother myself, somehow I could read into them, and we had loving one-on-one conversations. I sat very close to each teen, held their hands, and chatted. The important bit is not what I said—it is that these children needed to be heard. In some respects, listening is the single most important thing you can do. A small dose of such kindness can be powerful medicine. To see the delight on the faces of the teenagers makes you want to do all you can to help.

These were private, beautiful moments that no one could ever take away from me. Hearing their stories was inspirational and filled us all with a sense of hope.

After the opening of the unit, Beatrice and I took a train back to London. On my way home, my publicist, Kate Waddington, raised a red flag. Kate has been loyal and steadfast to me for more than twenty years. She had beautifully organized the unveiling of the Teenage Cancer Trust and coordinated all the media.

“Duchess, are you sure that Indian businessman was for real? I think you’ve been stung,” she said.

It was only a phone call, but from a wonderful mood, I plunged into a bottomless abyss, suddenly feeling like I wanted to throw up. It just couldn’t be tru...

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