'Budgie' flies to Duchess's rescue

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The Independent Online
THE Duchess of York was last night celebrating in the United States, after striking a deal that she hopes will rid her of debts thought to be as high as pounds 3m.

The Queen, who just days ago refused to bail out her spendthrift daughter- in-law from the latest cash crisis, was said to have welcomed the news.

The agreement, which has the support of royal bankers Coutts & Co, includes funding by an unnamed but reportedly "highly regarded" American group involved in children's TV programmes. It "provides for a solid base for the activities of Her Royal Highness . . . and ensures the payment of creditors," according to a spokesman for the duchess.

It seems the duchess clinched the deal, thought to centre on exploitation of her Budgie the Helicopter cartoon character, during talks over the past two days in Washington.

The deal may involve sponsorship or personal endorsement by the duchess in new agreements or enterprises. She will still be able to continue her charitable work, which has taken her all over the world in recent years.

Buckingham Palace officials will, however, want to keep a close watch on developments to ensure the duchess does not overstep the mark by using her role in the Royal Family for personal profit.

The deal follows weeks of negotiations between her advisers, bankers and businessmen. It is understood that it will allow the duchess to remain living in the Berkshire mansion she rents at a cost of pounds 72,000 a year.

The duchess's daughters, Beatrice, seven, and Eugenie, five, will remain at their exclusive private schools, unaffected by the new arrangements; their father, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, pays for their schooling.

Last night the duchess was attending a $500-a-head fundraising dinner in aid of children in Connecticut.

It had earlier appeared that she would be unable to leave her money troubles on this side of the Atlantic. As she prepared to attend the dinner, the attention of the American press was once more focused on her as news of her financial plight spread across the ocean to the United States.