Sarah Ferguson has been accused of deliberately attempting to damage Turkey’s image with her new undercover documentary.

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The Duchess of York disguised herself in a black wig and headscarf to get a closer look at the poor conditions in state-run orphanages for Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission, part of ITV’s Tonight programme.

But Turkish ministers believe the show was timed to coincide with the country’s bid to join the European Union.

Nimet Cubukcu, minister for women and family, said: “It is obvious she is trying to leave Turkey in the midst of a smudge campaign.”

But Kate Waddington, spokesperson for the duchess, denied her intentions were anything other than to uncover the poor treatment of orphans, saying:

“She has no political motivations. This is about the welfare of children.”

ITV has defended the programme, saying its content is a “valid area of public interest”.

Sarah was joined in Turkey by her 18-year-old daughter Princess Eugenie, who wept when she witnessed how bad conditions were for the youngsters.

One Government building near Ankara housed around 700 disabled children, some of whom were tied to their cribs and kept in boxes.

The second part of the programme sees the duchess investigating orphanages in Romania with her other daughter Beatrice, 20.

Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission airs tomorrow (06.11.08) at 9pm.