Sarah Ferguson grew up in Hampshire with her father, Major Ronald Ferguson and mother, Susan Wright.
In 1985 she was invited to a house party at Windsor Castle to celebrate Royal Ascot, and although she already knew Prince Andrew from childhood, it was here that a romance developed out of their friendship.
The couple were married on July 23, 1986, at Westminster Abbey, with a billion people tuning in to watch the televised nuptials.
Sarah and Andrew have two children, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, born in 1988 and 1990 respectively.
Andrew was often away due to his work with the Navy and Sarah turned to writing, publishing a series of children's books about Budgie The Helicopter.
In 1992, she separated from the Duke. Although Sarah and Andrew divorced in 1996, they continued to share a house together near Ascot for many years and Sarah has described her ex-husband as her "bestest friend".
As well as her successful writing career, she is the US spokesman for Weight Watchers and has done TV presenting for CNN. The title of one of her many books: Reinventing Yourself With The Duchess Of York summed up her philosophy of getting on with the show.
Now a millionairess in her own right, she is able to devote more time than ever to her charity work, including Children in Crisis which she founded in 1993, and working as a patron for the Teenage Cancer Trust among many other kids' charities.
Her relationship with the British monarchy has steadily improved, much to her delight. "The Queen is one of the finest ladies I've ever met in my life," she said in 2007.
"I'm so honoured to be able to say we are friends. I love her. She's given up her whole life to her country. She's a great lady and a wonderful grandmother."
Her relationship with her daughters has developed since her divorce to one of close friendship and companionship. On her 18th birthday, Beatrice said Sarah was the one who inspired her most. "She leads by example and her behaviour is one that I'd really like to follow", she said.