Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson
For a brief period the romance and then marriage of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson brought a touch of modernity to the royal family, the stuffiness of protocol being shunted aside by the energetic and bubbly newcomer to the House of Windsor. But it didn’t last.
Sarah Ferguson had known the Prince during their childhood and youth, both having an interest in polo, but no romance occurred until Princess Diana engineered a meeting at an Ascot races party. Though she had no titles Ms Ferguson had some notable ancestors, including (along with about half the British aristocracy) Charles II . More impressively she had a career in PR when she became linked to the Prince, but her subsequent uncomfortable relationship with the press perhaps suggests she was not destined for greatness there.
After Prince Andrew had proposed at Floors Castle in Scotland, and given his fiancée a ruby engagement ring, the wedding date was set for July 23 1986. In a period not without political strife – this was the era of the miners’ strike and the Broadwater farm riots – a royal wedding was for many a welcome entertainment and distraction.
The wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 had set the bar high. Rather than St Paul’s the couple married in Westminster Abbey , the ceremony presided over by Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, before 2,000 guests including Margaret Thatcher and Nancy Reagan, and between 500 million and a billion TV viewers, depending on whose estimate is believed. In an ivory satin dress the bride-to-be arrived at the church just a couple of minutes late, at 11.30, in the Glass Coach that had passed cheering crowds along the route from Clarence House. The dress had a 17-foot-long train, an encumbrance that saw the procession from door to altar last four minutes.
Although vast numbers could watch on the TV, it was a family affair, with Prince Edward as best man and the Prince of Wales reading the lesson. And Prince Andrew had received a special present from his mother the Queen just 90 minutes before the ceremony, when she made him Duke of York, Earl of Inverness, and Baron Killyleagh.
There was the usual royal wedding problem with names – the bride repeating one of her groom’s several middle names – and notably and given her seemingly independent spirit unexpectedly the vows contained the pledge to obey her husband.
After grand celebrations at the Palace and then for friends at Claridges the happy couple flew to the Azores for their honeymoon.
Alas they were not happy for long. The Prince was absent because of his naval duties all too often, the press turned against ‘Fergie’ for what they perceived as extravagance, and the outsider who was supposed to be a new broom sweeping away protocol and pomp was instead it seems buried beneath it. They separated in 1992, divorcing in 1996.
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