Fergie loses staff - including PR she's relied on for 10 years

The cash-strapped Duchess of York has been forced to sack her entire team of seven full-time staff to save money.

In another blow, the Duchess has also parted company with Kate Waddington, her long-suffering public relations adviser who worked hard to improve the Duchess's battered public image.

The cutbacks will also affect three more staff who were on temporary contracts and worked for the Duchess on an ad-hoc basis. In total she should save an estimated £700,000 a year.

Sarah Ferguson and Kate Waddington

Good terms: Sarah Ferguson is set to let go of Kate Waddington after 10 years

The former wife of Prince Andrew, who recently declared she didn't 'have a pot to

**** in' and who is believed to be £2million in the red, personally telephoned staff to explain why they had to go.

In a statement last night she said she felt the redundancies were the 'right thing to do given the circumstances'.

She also thanked the employees for their 'loyalty, kindness and support'.

The staff, believed to include Colin Tebbutt, the Duchess's driver for ten years, and Sally Fish, her right-hand woman for 15 years, were devastated when the redundancies were announced by Amanda Thirsk, Prince Andrew's deputy private secretary, at Royal Lodge on Wednesday.

Buckingham Palace last night said Prince Andrew was sympathetic to his ex-wife's plight and officials from his office would take over management of her affairs.

Controversially, despite her financial woes, the Duchess, 50, will this week fly to Necker Island, the luxury home of Sir Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands, where she will be joined by her daughters Princesses Beatrice, 21, and Eugenie, 20.

Last night, one of her supporters accepted that the timing of the trip could be seen as unfortunate. 'It doesn't look good given the circumstances. I also think there is a feeling among some of the staff that the whole process could have been handled much better than this,' she said.

'There was some disquiet about the formal approach adopted by Palace officials.'

But friends say the Duchess is deeply upset by the loss of her team and they insist the trip to Necker is an invitation from a friend and not a paid-for holiday.

One, who asked not to be named, said: 'The Duchess is being comforted by friends and is trying to come to terms with what has happened. She is flying out to Necker at the invitation of Sir Richard Branson, who is keen to help in any way he can.'

A former employee described the Duchess as an 'awesome employer who would go out of her way to help anyone'.

But the anonymous source said it had been clear in recent weeks that her financial problems were spiralling out of control.

The former staff member said the Duchess was believed to be trying to get a valuation on the Bentley given to her by the Norwegian food magnate Geir Frantzen in 2008.

'There were constantly people ringing up the office for bills which needed paying - the phone was always going.

'There was also talk from one of the drivers that the Duchess was trying to get a valuation for the Bentley. She was also talking about relocating to the United States.

'A week before the announcement we were all told to knuckle down because there would be some cutbacks. She was also very keen to track down a painting which she hoped was of value. They had lost track of it and at one point were planning to search storage facilities in California and Majorca to see if it was there.'

The Duchess was believed to be on friendly terms with her staff and has reportedly told them they could be rehired if things look up.

The sackings are the latest blow for the Duchess who has been mired in controversy since May when she was filmed taking £27,000 from an undercover reporter.

She promised access to her ex-husband, who is also Britain's international trade representative, for a further payment of £500,000. There is no suggestion that Prince Andrew knew of the arrangement.

The Duchess compounded the embarrassing episode with a ' confessional' appearance on Oprah Winfrey's chat show that was likened to a derailed train heading towards its ultimate crash.

Friends of Miss Waddington last night confirmed she was no longer advising the Duchess. She said the pair had parted on good terms.

The friend said: 'Kate just felt she had taken it as far as she could. It was her decision to call it a day.

The public relations firm Bell Pottinger, whose senior figures are friends with the Duchess, are now advising her.'

A spokesman for Bell Pottinger confirmed it was acting for her 'on a pro-bono basis'.

The spokesman refused to comment on claims relating to the unpaid bills, the Bentley or the painting.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now