What can the Duchess do?

l Renegotiate her Budgie the Helicopter deals. The book, TV and merchandise royalties were originally thought to have been highly lucrative deals which would eventually be worth around pounds 8m (Sleepy Kids, the production company which bought the serialisation rights, reportedly saw a 15.5 per cent rise in its profits for the first half of 1995 thanks to Budgie). They have so far failed to yield the Duchess even pounds 1m. Undeterred, she was in New York as recently as December 1995 to drum up publicity for a new line of Budgie toys and accessories; the problem seems to be that her link with many Budgie products is much more tenuous than had been realised. For instance, of the 13 episodes of the television series broadcast in 1994, only one was based on a story by the Duchess.

l Write more books. Tabloid stories in 1993 claimed the Duchess had been given an advance of up to pounds 150,000 by the publisher Weidenfeld and Nicolson to write a book about Queen Victoria's European travels. Indeed, two books on Victoria have since materialised - Travels of Queen Victoria, and Victoria and Albert: Life at Osbourne House - from which she is said to have earned around pounds 750,000.

l Go into the movie business. This summer there were rumours of the Duchess's appointment as a consultant on a Twentieth Century Fox film about Queen Victoria, and we all know about the financial rewards of consultancy. Some reports went as far as to claim that she had been made a co-producer, and stood to receive a share of the profits as well as a fixed fee.

l Hit the US television talk-show circuit: She could profitably open her heart to the likes of Larry King or Barbara Walters. Or she could, of course, stay at home and air one's dirty linen, Diana-style, to Martin Bashir; the Queen may yet be made to regret her refusal to help out her beleaguered daughter-in-law.

l Throw open her doors to Hello! (again). In May of last year she told the magazine of her new life at Kingsbourne, the Surrey mansion said to relieve her of pounds 1,500 a week. The 18-page interview was the magazine's tenth about her, and would probably have netted her a five-figure sum; an eleventh might clear a little debt. Hello! refuses to be drawn on the subject.

SCOTT HUGHES

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