Heritage

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's On-Again Off-Again Royal Romance

The royal exes reportedly still live together 12 years after their divorce.
IMAGE ANWAR HUSSEIN
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Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York have one of those royal relationships that might best be described as complicated. Despite being officially divorced since 1996, Andrew and Sarah have maintained a remarkably close bond. That may be for the sake of their children, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and it may also have to do with a romantic spark that was never completely snuffed out. Through public scandals, private heartbreak, and a longstanding friendship, here's what you need to know about Andrew and Sarah's relationship through the years:

HOW ANDREW AND SARAH MET

Long before their relationship was in the spotlight, both Andrew and Sarah had notable romantic histories. Andrew made headlines for his relationship with Koo Stark, an American actress, while Sarah lived with her former boyfriend Paddy McNally. Sarah also had a career before her royal life: she worked at an art gallery in public relations, and then at a publishing house.

Princess Diana reportedly played an instrumental role in setting up Andrew and Sarah. Sarah, the daughter of Major Ronald Ferguson, Prince Charles's polo manager, was one of Diana's childhood friends. Diana and Sarah reconnected in 1980, and with similar interests and social circles, they became close. Diana invited Sarah to her wedding in 1981, and Sarah was a member of Diana's inner circle, offering her advice and support as she joined the royal family during weekly lunches.


Sarah and Diana in June 1983

According to Vanity Fair, Diana recommended that 26-year-old Sarah be invited to an event at Windsor Castle during Royal Ascot in 1985. It was there Sarah and Andrew connected for the first time as adults; they had reportedly met as children, and even played tag together on a polo field. Diana encouraged Sarah and Andrew's romance, inviting the couple to her country house, Highgrove, for a visit before their relationship became public.

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Their romance moved quickly, and soon Sarah was welcomed into the royal fold. Sarah and the Queen bonded early over a shared love of horses; thanks to her father's career, Sarah was raised around the animals, and was no stranger to a private ride with the Queen, Vanity Fair reports. She also won over Prince Philip with her sharp sense of humor and interest in Philip's favorite pastime, open-carriage driving.

With the royal stamp of approval, Andrew and Sarah were ready to take the next step in their relationship less than a year after they formally started dating.

A WHIRLWIND RELATIONSHIP AND A QUICK ENGAGEMENT


Andrew and Sarah after they announced their engagement in March 1986.

Prince Andrew proposed to Sarah on February 19, 1986, his 26th birthday. The prince popped the question at Floors Castle in Scotland, which was reportedly the spot where the couple shared their first kiss. They announced their engagement publicly on March 19, 1986 with a photo session held at Buckingham Palace.

Andrew created a custom ring for his bride, consisting of an oval-cut Burmese ruby surrounded by 10 diamonds. The color of the center stone was reportedly to complement Sarah's red hair. The ring's unique design has stood the test of time: over 30 years later, Sarah and Andrew's daughter, Princess Eugenie, received a similar ring from Jack Brooksbank.

INSIDE SARAH AND ANDREW'S ROYAL WEDDING


On July 23, 1986, Prince Andrew and Sarah married in a grand royal wedding held at Westminster Abbey in London. On their wedding day, the Queen conferred the title of Duke and Duchess of York on Andrew and Sarah.

Sarah wore an embroidered ivory silk wedding dress designed by Lindka Cierach. The dress featured a 17-foot train, which had the letters "A" and "S" sewn into the fabric in silver beads to symbolize Sarah and Andrew's union, Hello! reports. The Duchess also wore a 20-foot veil.

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After arriving at the Abbey wearing a flower crown, Sarah changed into the York Tiara for the rest of her wedding day. The tiara was part of a wedding gift set from the Queen and Prince Philip that also includes a necklace, bracelet, and earrings. The diamond and platinum tiara features leaf motifs and floral scrollwork and was commissioned by Garrard. It has since remained in Sarah's personal collection following her divorce and is a frontrunner for Princess Eugenie's wedding day tiara as well.


Andrew's brothers, Charles and Edward, played a major role on his wedding day: Charles read a lesson during the service, while Edward served as Andrew's best man. Princess Anne's two children, Peter and Zara Phillips, served as a page boy and bridesmaid in the wedding party. Andrew's other nephew, Prince William, was also a page boy. 

Two thousand guests joined the couple at the Abbey, including Nancy Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, while a television audience of 500 million tuned in on the wedding day. Andrew and Sarah shared their first kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 people.


Sarah and Andrew share a kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony, with their bridesmaids and page boys

After the Buckingham Palace balcony moment, the wedding celebration continued at Claridge's Hotel, a favorite of the royals. Andrew and Sarah then left for their honeymoon to the Azores, which also included a five-day sail on the royal yacht, Britannia.

THE YORKS' UNSTEADY FAMILY LIFE


Andrew, Sarah, Beatrice, and Eugenie in August 1996

On August 8, 1988, Sarah and Andrew welcomed their first daughter, Princess Beatrice in London. Two years later, they welcomed Princess Eugenie on March 23, 1990. The girls were primarily raised at the Royal Lodge near Windsor Castle, offering them a private childhood outside London.

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But Sarah and Andrew's relationship started to unravel early on. Despite raising Beatrice and Eugenie together, the couple were apart often: Prince Andrew's demanding naval career meant the couple only saw each other for roughly 40 days per year, Hello! reports. "I spent my entire first pregnancy alone," Sarah later told Harper's Bazaar of Andrew's absence. "When Beatrice was born, Andrew got 10 days of shore leave."

In early 1992, the couple legally separated, and in August of that year, Sarah faced an explosive scandal as intimate photos taken of the Duchess with American businessman John Bryan were made public, the Washington Post reports. The Duchess was on summer holiday at Balmoral Castle with the Queen, Prince Philip, and Prince Andrew when the scandal broke. The Queen was reportedly furious, and Sarah returned to London that day, according to the Telegraph. Prince Philip's relationship with Sarah was also badly hurt by the scandal, and it has reportedly not improved much in the intervening years.

ROYAL DIVORCE

Although their divorce did not become official until 1996, Sarah was estranged from the royal family after her photo scandal in 1992. The Duchess was sensitive to allegations that she was holding out for a larger settlement and later explained to Harper's Bazaar that she wasn't interested in money from the royal family; she simply wanted to be on good terms with her husband's family.

"When I met with Her Majesty about it, she asked, 'What do you require, Sarah?,'" Ferguson told Harper's Bazaar. "I said, 'Your friendship,' which I think amazed her because everyone said I would demand a big settlement. But I wanted to be able to say, 'Her Majesty is my friend'—not fight her nor have lawyers saying, 'Look, she is greedy.' I left my marriage knowing I'd have to work."

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SARAH AND ANDREW TODAY


Sarah has since managed to get back on her feet and repair both her financial standing and relationship with the royal family. She wrote about her scandal, among other very personal things, in a memoir titled Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself. Sarah also received Oprah's seal of approval: she partnered with Oprah's OWN Network to create a six-part documentary series.

Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself

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In recent years, Sarah has primarily focused her attention on her family and her charity work, including Key to Freedom, an organization she co-founded with her daughters. Prince Andrew has remained dedicated to his duties as a full-time working royal.

Even after their divorce, Sarah and Andrew continued to make appearances together, both with their daughters and on their own. In fact, Sarah reportedly still lives with Andrew at the Royal Lodge, where Eugenie's wedding reception will take place next month, and the pair spends time together often, according to W Magazine. Eugenie even once said her parents are "the best divorced couple I know."

In 2013, Sarah opened up about her close relationship with Andrew that has remained throughout the years. "He’s still my handsome prince, he’ll always be my handsome prince," she said at a children's literature festival. "We really believe in being good parents for our girls. In our every day, we really respect each other and we honor each other."

Sarah is also working her way back into the royal family's favor: she was invited to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding back in May, a surprising move considering she was left out of Prince William and Kate Middleton's big day in 2011. Sarah was also photographed with the Queen in the Royal Box at Royal Ascot in June. The monarch reportedly respects the friendship Andrew and Sarah have maintained through the years and "has always shown kindness to her former daughter-in-law," Vanity Fair reports.

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Andrew and Sarah at Royal Ascot in 2018 with their daughter, Princess Beatrice

The happily divorced couple will soon reunite for a family occasion: Princess Eugenie's wedding this week. Sarah will also be front and center as the mother of the bride during the wedding. Sarah will sit next to her husband in the quire of St. George's Chapel on the wedding day, and she and Andrew are serving as co-hosts of the evening reception at the Royal Lodge.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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