Why I’m Obsessed With Prince Andrew And Sarah Ferguson’s Incredibly Amicable Break-Up

Those two 'consciously uncoupled' decades before Gwyneth Paltrow coined that phrase...

sarah ferguson prince andrew

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Updated on

Before Jack and Eugenie, before Harry and Meghan, before William and Kate and, erm, slightly after Charles and Diana, there was Prince Andrew and Fergie, aka Sarah Ferguson – and with the Duke and Duchess of York’s youngest daughter Eugenie set to have her very own royal wedding next week, what better time to chart the relationship timeline of the royal family’s most amicable exes? From their first meeting as children to their 1986 marriage, through to those toe pictures, reconciliation and their somewhat unusual living arrangements, here's everything you need to know...

Let’s start at the beginning. How did Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew meet?

The future Duke and Duchess of York first encountered one another as children: Sarah’s father, Major Ronald Ferguson, was a major player on the royal polo scene, and the youngsters would ‘play tag with like-minded truants’ during games, she would later recall in her autobiography. They then fell out of touch – until 1985, when Princess Diana (yet another royal-adjacent old friend) suggested inviting Fergie along to stay at Windsor Castle during Ascot. Though Andrew, the Queen’s third child, had previously been linked to a string of models and actresses, none of whom were considered to be ‘suitable’ partner material, his new relationship with Sarah was a turning point: the Queen seemed happy, and so did the press. After a very speedy courtship, the pair announced their engagement in March 1986.

Engagement ring details, please.

prince andrew sarah ferguson engagement ring
©Getty Images

Prince Andrew proposed with a ring from Garrard’s, the jewelers who also created Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement band. Boasting a Burmese ruby surrounded by 10 diamonds in a floral pattern on a band of yellow gold, it is rumoured to have cost around £25,000. ‘We came to the mutual conclusion that red was probably the best colour for Sarah,’ the Prince explained in his engagement interview. ‘That’s how we came to the choice of the ruby. The extra bits around the outside, we wanted something that was slightly unconventional.’ It seems that her mum’s ring might have set the standard for Princess Eugenie: her pink-orange padparadscha sapphire engagement ring, which also features a cluster of diamonds, is remarkably similar in colour and shape.

And when did Andrew and Sarah get married?

prince andrew sarah ferguson

Just four months later, the Duke and Duchess of York tied the knot at Westminster Abbey on 23rd July. Sarah wore a very ‘80s gown by British designer Lindka Cierach, featuring a number of embroidered motifs, including bumblebees and thistles from the Ferguson coat of arms and anchors and waves for Andrew’s naval career. Oh, and the initials ‘A’ and ‘S’ intertwined and stitched in silver beads. The scrollwork York tiara, which she wore with a garland of white flowers (so Coachella), was a custom design from Garrard’s, and is thought to have been specially commissioned by the Queen and Prince Philip to mark the occasion.

But what was the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson like?

Alas, only the guests at the Westminster Abbey ceremony will be able to provide us with proper intel on that count - and given the royal family’s inner circle have a vested interest in keeping schtum on private matters like this, we’re unlikely to get the sort of fly-on-the-wall account that we truly deserve. What we do have is (god bless her) Fergie’s own autobiography, in which she gives away some secrets of the big day, including the fact that she lost six pounds in the run up to the wedding due to all the ‘rushing around.’ Plus, there’s also the much-discussed footage that shows Fergie apparently ‘winking’ at her husband-to-be during the ‘honour and obey’ section of her wedding vows: if she’s not already your favourite royal-adjacent, she certainly should be now.

What about their daughters?

prince andrew sarah ferguson princess eugenie

The couple welcomed their first child, Princess Beatrice Elizabeth Mary, on 8th August at London’s Portland Hospital. Two years later, Eugenie Victoria Helena arrived on 23rd March 1990.

Look back at royal wedding dresses through history - including Fergie's gown - in the gallery below...


Royal wedding dresses through history - Grazia

Royal wedding dresses1 of 18

Queen Victoria, 1840

Queen Victoria is one of just two British Queens to have married while reigning (the other is Queen Mary). For her wedding to Prince Albert at St James' Palace, the young Queen chose a simple off-the-shoulder style in white satin, with a flounce of Honiton lace at the neckline. Instead of a coronet, she wore a simple orange blossom garland.

Royal wedding dresses2 of 18

Victoria, Princess Royal, 1858

Princess Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria, wed Prince Frederick William of Prussia, in January 1858 wearing a rich white moire antique decorated with three flounces of Honiton lace designed to resemble bouquets of rose, shamrock and thistle in three medallions. Each flounce of the dress had a wreath of orange and myrtle blossoms, which were the bridal flower of Germany.

Royal wedding dresses3 of 18

Princess Beatrice, 1885

For her wedding to Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885, Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, wore a fashionable white satin dress, trimmed with lace (which the Princess is said to have loved) and orange blossom. She was the only of Victoria's daughters to wear her mother's veil down the aisle, too.

Royal wedding dresses4 of 18

Princess Mary of Teck, Queen consort, 1893

The future Queen Mary's wedding dress was designed by Arthur Silver of the Silver Studio, whose designs epitomised the Art Nouveau look. Her classic gown was embroidered with roses, shamrocks and thistles, with the choice of orange blossom for the trim echoed in small wreaths adorning her neckline and her hair. Her 'something old' was a small piece of Honiton lace from her mother's own wedding gown, with diamond jewellery from future mother-in-law Queen Victoria ticking off 'something borrowed.'

Royal wedding dresses5 of 18

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother, 1923

The future Queen Mother's wedding dress was quintessentially 1920s in style, with a simple drop waist. Designed by Madame Handley-Seymour, the dressmaker to Queen Mary, it was made of ivory silk crepe and embroidered with pearls. Her Flanders lace veil was held in place by a wreath of orange blossom and white roses, the latter a nod to the her future title of Duchess of York.

Royal wedding dresses6 of 18

Queen Elizabeth II, 1947

Court couturier Norman Hartnell described the wedding gown of the then-Princess Elizabeth as 'the most beautiful dress I had so far made.' Patterned with stars and floral embellishments, the dress – and its 13 foot train – was said to be inspired by Botticelli's Primavera, and to symbolise the nation's rebirth following the war. As clothing rationing was still in place (even for a Princess), Elizabeth had to purchase the fabric with ration coupons (though she was inundated with coupons from young women across the country, she had to return them to their owners).

Royal wedding dresses7 of 18

Princess Margaret, 1960

When Princess Margaret married photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, she opted for a design by royal couturier Norman Hartnell. Comprising 30 metres of silk organza, the dress's simple shape and clean lines were designed to flatter the Princess's petite frame.

Royal wedding dresses8 of 18

Princess Anne, 1973

Ahead of her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips, Princess Anne seemed to take sartorial inspiration from times past, specifically the court of Queen Elizabeth I: her wedding gown, designed by Maureen Baker for Susan Small, featured a Tudor-style high neck and sweeping, almost medieval sleeves.

Royal wedding dresses9 of 18

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1981

Lady Diana Spencer's now-iconic 1981 wedding dress set bridal trends for years to come, with its puffed sleeves, 25-foot train and full skirt. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the ivory silk taffeta gown was embellished with tiny sequins and pearls in a heart motif.

Royal wedding dresses10 of 18

Sarah, Duchess of York, 1986

Lindka Cierach designed this quintessentially '80s wedding dress for Sarah Ferguson's wedding to Prince Andrew. Made from ivory duchesse satin, it boasted a 17 foot long train embroidered with bees and thistles (a nod to her family's crest) and anchors and waves (symbolizing Prince Andrew's naval career). The York Diamond tiara which Fergie wore on the day was commissioned especially for her by her mother-in-law, the Queen.

Royal wedding dresses11 of 18

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, 1999

Samantha Shaw was tasked with designing and making a dress for the wedding of Sophie Rhys-Jones (now the Countess of Wessex) to the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward. The long-sleeved style was embellished with 325,000 cut glass and pearl beads.

Royal wedding dresses12 of 18

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, 2005

Camilla's embroidered coat in pale blue and gold and matching chiffon gown were designed by Robinson Valentine for her wedding to the Prince of Wales at St George's Chapel, Windsor. Her statement headpiece – which featured Swarowski diamonds – was the handiwork of the royal family's favourite milliner, Philip Treacy.

Royal wedding dresses13 of 18

Autumn Phillips, 2008

Canadian-born Autumn Kelly opted for a classic gown by British designer Sassi Holford, which featured a bodice fashioned from hand-beaded lace and a silk duchesse skirt, worn with a beaded shrug. The Festoon tiara which the bride wore on the day was borrowed from the collection of her mother-in-law, Princess Anne.

Royal wedding dresses14 of 18

Zara Tindall, 2011

Zara Phillips wore a simple, classic gown with a full skirt and corseted bodice by Stewart Parvin, one of her grandmother the Queen's favourite couturiers, when she married rugby player Mike Tindall at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. The diamond tiara was the bride's 'something borrowed,' a loan from her mother Princess Anne.

Royal wedding dresses15 of 18

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, 2011

Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen landed the biggest fashion gig of the century so far when she was chosen by Kate Middleton to design a dress for her Westminster Abbey wedding to Prince William. The gown itself was made from ivory satin with long lace sleeves and floral motifs which were cut from machine-made lace then appliqued onto silk net by workers at the Royal School of Needlework.

Royal wedding dresses16 of 18

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 2018

We all know that Givenchy's Clare Waight Keller designed Meghan Markle's wedding dress, but there's a fun fact about the detailing. The flowers embroidered into the veil represent the 53 nations of the Commonwealth, a nod to Prince Harry's role as Youth Ambassador.

Royal wedding dresses17 of 18

Princess Eugenie of York, 2018

Princess Eugenie had a very particular request when it came to her wedding dress, which designer Peter Pilotto accommodated. He designed her dress with a low-back as to reveal the scars from her scoliosis surgery.

Royal wedding dresses18 of 18

Lady Gabriella Windsor, 2019

Lady Gabriella Windsor walked down the aisle in a Luisa Beccaria gown, which as made "entirely in Valencienne écru lace layered with ribbons of flowers and buds" says the designer.

Are Prince Andrew and Sarah still married?

Shortly after Eugenie’s birth, reports about ‘irreconcilable differences’ between the couple – including rumours of infidelities - began to spiral, and on 19th March 1992, exactly six years after they had announced their engagement, the Palace confirmed a separation. The official statement revealed that the Queen found ‘media speculation’ on the topic ‘especially undesirable during the general election campaign,’ and that she hoped ‘that the media [would] spare the Duke and Duchess of York and their children any intrusion.’ This was not to be the case: months later, Fergie was photographed having her toes sucked (yes, you read that correctly) by Texan financier John Bryan while holidaying in St Tropez. Naturally, the pictures made a front page splash – and the Duchess, then still on good terms with her in-laws, was staying at Balmoral when the story broke. The Queen’s private secretary is said to have strongly advised Fergie to leave for London immediately.

And yet Sarah and Andrew still live together?

Correct. Everything that Chris and Gwyneth know about consciously uncoupling, they learnt from Sarah and Andrew (or so we like to think). Despite having been divorced for the best part of two decades, the Yorks still live together at the Royal Lodge in Windsor (a stone’s throw from their daughter’s wedding venue). It’s thought that Sarah moved back in with her ex in 2008 and has never left. Speaking about the arrangement to radio host Kyle Sandilands a few years ago, she explained ‘I’m in and out all the time and he’s in and out all the time. We’re not married – we are very happy the way things are.’ The couple also share a skiing chalet in Verbier, which, incidentally, is the Swiss resort where Eugenie first met her fiancé.

So, things are pretty amicable between these exes, then? Are Prince Andrew and Fergie friends?

prince andrew sarah ferguson

We're touched by your interest, and can happily report that the Duke and Duchess of York are a model divorced couple. Indeed, back in 1999, Sarah described her and the Prince as ‘the happiest divorced couple in the world, definitely,’ a sentiment which their daughter Eugenie later echoed when she called her parents ‘the best divorced couple I know.’ When Beatrice and Eugenie were growing up, they continued to be pictured together at important family events, and have attended Royal Ascot together for the past few years.

Does Sarah Ferguson still have a royal title?

Yes… and no. When her divorce was finalized in May 1996, it was confirmed that she would simply lose the ‘the’ from her title, like other divorced peeresses, making her HRH Sarah, Duchess of York. Two months later, though, the Queen announced via letters patent that royals by marriage would lose the style of ‘His/Her Royal Highness’ upon their divorce, making Fergie’s official title Sarah, Duchess of York. Should she marry someone else, she would lose that title.

Will they ever re-marry?

Aside from the heart-eyed #TBT posts to Andrew in ‘80s heart throb mode which Fergie posts with alarming regularity on Instagram, the Duchess has made it clear that she’s pretty happy with the way things are. Should she and Andrew wish to re-marry, though, they’d now be free to do so – thanks to the birth of Prince Louis. While the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 dictates that the first six in line to the British throne must seek the monarch’s consent before marrying (just as Prince Harry did, ahead of his wedding to Meghan Markle), Louis’ arrival pushed Prince Andrew into seventh place, meaning he is now free to marry whoever he pleases.

Let’s talk about Sarah Ferguson at Prince Harry’s wedding...

sarah ferguson

But of course. Cast your minds back to 2011, when poor Fergie famously did not receive a golden ticket to Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding - and took herself off to Thailand to cheer herself up. It's this high profile snub that made the Duchess's appearance at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding - complete with one, inexplicably singular glove - this year all the more triumphant. Though Harry's aunt reportedly did not receive an invite to the exclusive after-party at Frogmore House, we don't think that should take the shine off what one Twitter user described as 'the best arrival since Maleficent at the christening.'

But where will Fergie sit at Eugenie's royal wedding?

In May, Sarah arrived at St George’s Chapel alone, with her ex-husband, Beatrice, Eugenie and fiancé Jack arriving in a group shortly after. While we can expect the mother of the bride to arrive either solo or with her other daughter next week, it’s thought that Prince Andrew will sit next to his ex-wife after walking Eugenie down the aisle - and as they'll be in close proximity to the other royals, there's plenty of potential for an awkward family reunion broadcast to millions...

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