A Complete Timeline Of Sarah Ferguson's Drama With The Royal Family

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To say that the royal family is the dramatic gift that keeps on giving is perhaps the world's biggest understatement. For an institution that has maintained the stiff upper lip and sweep-drama-under-the-rug approach to anything remotely resembling normal life, the royal family has had its fair share of theater. From divorces to affairs to associations with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, the royal proclivity for eye boggling melodrama rivals only that of a long running soap opera, with major players like King Charles III, Queen Consort Camilla, Prince William of Wales, and Prince Andrew keeping headlines busy and stress at an all time high.

While many royal watchers think of Charles and Diana Spencer's divorce as the royal separation to end all royal separations, three out of the four children born to the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip divorced their spouses, with only Prince Edward — the couple's youngest son — staying out of the lawyer's office. When Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, separated in 1992, divorce seemed imminent and anyone paying attention knew that something was off between the couple. Things were certainly off, to say the very least, and the couple's separation and eventual divorce was the tip of the dramatic iceberg that would plague Fergie's relationship with the royals for the following decades.

Things between Fergie and the royal family started on a positive note

When a young Sarah Ferguson first made her way onto the royal stage, she came with a bubbly persona, wild red hair, and a background the royal family deemed appropriate for a future duchess. In her book "Sarah: HRH The Duchess of York," royal expert Ingrid Seward detailed those early interactions between Fergie and the royal family, writing that despite early doubts, Fergie won the firm over with her charm.

"They had not initially thought of her as a candidate for marriage to Andrew, but when they considered it the idea of having her in the Firm, as Prince Philip calls it, looked a most attractive prospect," Seward wrote. "She was down to earth without any trace of the snobbishness they so disliked, and she was probably the first girl Andrew had been serious about who could be considered remotely suitable" (via Express). 

From the beginning of her relationship with Prince Andrew, Fergie bonded with Queen Elizabeth II and the two "got along well" thanks to their common interests. "Their mutual enjoyment of country pursuits, their love of dogs and horses, provided them with a common ground," Seward wrote, spelling out a fruitful future — or so many thought.

Things started to go downhill during Fergie's first pregnancy

Navigating your first pregnancy is never an easy feat, let alone having to do so in the public eye. For Sarah Ferguson, her public image — even before her pregnancy — had been ripped to pieces in her early years as a royal, with many headlines dedicated to her weight and body image (about which we could dedicate another whole article and scathing opinion). To make matters even more difficult, Fergie's first time going through the pregnancy and birthing experience was largely done solo, not to mention the heightened media scrutiny she found herself under at the time.

So why was Fergie left to figure out pregnancy by herself? As she told Harper's Bazaar in an extensive sit down interview, two weeks after she and Prince Andrew tied the knot, he was stationed overseas, thus leaving his new wife and future mother of his children alone. When she found out she was pregnant, Fergie was incredibly emotional due to the state of her marriage, telling the publication that she didn't get any kind of support from the palace.

"I spent my entire first pregnancy alone; when Beatrice was born, Andrew got 10 days of shore leave, and when he left and I cried, they all said: 'Grow up and get a grip,'" Fergie shared of her experience.

Cracks in the marriage between Andrew and Fergie formed in 1990

If having to go through her first pregnancy alone wasn't difficult enough, Sarah Ferguson began experiencing cracks in her marriage to Prince Andrew starting around 1990. With time, it became clear that the two were one very different life paths, with Andrew still serving in the Royal Navy and Fergie living lavishly as a member of the royal family. As noted by E! News, Andrew only made about $40,000 a year from his naval post, meaning that the opulent lifestyle Fergie wanted to engage in was largely funded by Queen Elizabeth II herself. In fact, the couple's estate, Sunninghill Park, was renovated and finished in 1990, just as things started to go south for them. Where was Fergie staying in the meantime? Oh, just Buckingham Palace — no big deal.

Not only were their lives and interests going in completely separate directions, but Andrew and Fergie hardly spent any time together. When their children — Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie — were just two years old and a few months old respectively in 1990, Andrew only spent 42 nights at home with them, leaving a majority of the raising, baby tending, and royal expectations to Fergie. As such, the Duchess of York began going out more and socializing with men, even taking little Beatrice to Morocco with her on a group vacation.

The couple separated in 1992, and a huge scandal followed

It became clear in just six short years that Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were not meant to be, and the two formally separated. This, of course, was in chorus with then-Prince Charles and Diana Spencer's official split, as well as Princess Anne's divorce — no wonder Queen Elizabeth II called 1992 her "annus horribilis." But as noted by She Knows, the couple's split was the least of the royal family's problems. 

Five months after Fergie and Andrew separated, the Duchess of York was photographed topless, sunbathing in St. Tropez. To make matters much more scandalous, oil tycoon John Bryan was with her, pictured sucking her toes — all while young Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were with her. Thus began the true crumbling of Fergie's relationship with the royals, and when the toe-sucking story broke in the United Kingdom, the duchess was at Balmoral with the queen and Prince Philip. As biographer Tom Quinn recalled of the breaking news, "Prince Philip came into the breakfast room, picked up one of the papers and just threw it in front of her and walked out."

Up until the scandalous photos leaked, Fergie and Philip had shared a rather friendly relationship, as author Katie Nicholl shared in a Channel 5 documentary entitled "The Royal Family At War." "But from that moment on," Nicholl said, "the Duke of Edinburgh never forgave Sarah for the embarrassment and the humiliation that she had reaped" (via Express). 

Fergie maintains that she didn't want to get divorced

Despite her formal separation from Prince Andrew, allegations of infidelity, and the toe-sucking scandal that made front pages across the United Kingdom, Sarah Ferguson maintains that she didn't want to get divorced. A woman who had rubbed shoulders with the royals and circles of high society her whole life, Fergie likely knew that a divorce would mean consequences — possibly severe ones — for her, given that she had married into the family. While sitting down with Harper's Bazaar for an in-depth interview, Fergie shared that getting divorced from Andrew was "the most painful time of my life," explaining that legally dividing their lives was not the outcome she was hoping for.

"I didn't want a divorce but had to because of circumstance," Fergie said, recalling that Andrew had been away due to his naval career for the bulk of their marriage and their children's early lives. "I wanted to work; it's not right for a princess of the royal house to be commercial, so Andrew and I decided to make the divorce official so I could go off and get a job," Fergie said. The duchess has since been a spokesperson, media figure, and writer.

Fergie's divorce settlement was fairly small given her proximity to the royals

When we think about royal divorce settlements, Diana Spencer's typically comes to mind. She walked away from the royal family with a hefty sum and a personal reputation that kept her in the public eye, arguably even more so than her ex-husband. But as for Sarah Ferguson, she did not benefit from such a divorce agreement, and instead took a bit of a punishment sitting down. As noted by Express, the duchess received money for a new house, about $1.6 million in a trust fund for her daughters, and an additional $400,000 in a lump sum — all directly from Queen Elizabeth II. And while that certainly sounds like a good deal of money to us everyday folk, remember we're talking about the royals.

When asked about her divorce settlement and why she didn't squeeze more money out of the royals, Fergie told Harper's Bazaar that she wanted to maintain a relationship with the queen, albeit different due to the drama and scandal that had plagued her time in the firm.

"When I met with Her Majesty about it, she asked, 'What do you require, Sarah?' and I said, 'Your friendship,' which I think amazed her because everyone said I would demand a big settlement," Fergie shared. "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. I have."

One member of the royal family refused to have anything to do with Fergie following the divorce

While Sarah Ferguson appealed to Queen Elizabeth's sense of friendship amid her divorce from Prince Andrew, the late Prince Philip was having none of it. As mentioned before, Philip stormed out of Balmoral when Fergie's toe-sucking scandal made the headlines, and from that moment on, he had little to nothing to do with her. As noted in "The Final Portrait" by Gyles Brandreth, Fergie wanted to see Philip after she separated from Andrew. "I am the mother of his granddaughters, after all," Fergie said of her ex-father-in-law (via The Daily Beast). But in response, Philip quipped that while Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie could come and stay with the royals whenever they pleased, he didn't "see the point" of being friendly with Fergie.

As it happens, the two did have a run-in in 2005, both being at Balmoral and having to interact in some capacity. As noted by W Magazine, the brief reunion was less than ideal, and friends of Fergie's turned to the press to dish about what happened.

"[Philip] avoided her like the plague," a friend of the Duchess of York's explained. "I don't think they spoke a single word all week." Clearly, there was no love lost between them.

Fergie reunited with the queen, to the disdain of Prince Philip

Prince Philip clearly made his disdain for Sarah Ferguson known after she and Prince Andrew divorced, and yet Queen Elizabeth II — who was known for her dedication to the crown and royal protocol — was more forgiving than her husband. In fact, as noted by The Telegraph, Fergie and the queen reunited at Balmoral in 2013, as the Duchess of York was officially invited to visit the then-ruling monarch. It had been 21 years since she and Andrew had gone their separate ways, and as they say, time does heal some wounds. But not everyone was so quick to forgive and forget — while Fergie showed up with her bags packed, Philip made it clear that his path would not be crossing hers.

"It's perhaps notable that the Duke of Edinburgh, now fully recovered from his abdominal surgery, delayed his arrival at Balmoral until after she had left — he's no fan of Fergie's," The Telegraph reported in 2013, the report bolstered by others suggesting that Fergie made a "sharp exit" before Elizabeth's husband came home during another visit in 2018.

And, as noted by W Magazine, Philip's public disdain for Fergie did not stop there. In 2015, the two both attended the Royal Ascot, a favorite horse racing event for royals and circles of high society. Despite all the eyes on the royal family at the event, Philip sneered at Fergie when he saw her — not the best look, in our opinion.

Andrew and Fergie maintained a positive, and odd, relationship as exes

When most people separate and later divorce their ex-husbands, they typically want to throw things at them, call them names, and it's likely they've fantasized about hitting their ex with a car. But Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew's relationship seemed to get better once they were no longer spouses — not only that, but they continued living together at the Royal Lodge at Windsor. As noted by People, Fergie explained that their busy schedules didn't allow for too much time spent together, but they were happy to have a united front — especially for their daughters.

"I'm in and out all the time, and he's in and out all the time," Fergie explained. "And no, we're not married. We're very happy with the way things are. I think the great thing is we absolutely are the most extraordinary example of a unified family."

Further gushing about her ex — which is just not a common thing — Fergie described Andrew as "the finest man" in her life. "He's a great gentleman, and he's got an essence of gold. He's a nugget of goodness," she said, the irony of which is not lost on us. Even the couple's daughters were in awe of their parents' ability to move past their drama, with Princess Eugenie saying, "They are the best divorced couple I know."

Fergie weighed in on the royal relationship between William and Catherine

It was the relationship watched around the world — Prince William, arguably one of the most eligible bachelors, started dating Kate Middleton while the two were at the University of St. Andrews. Dazzling photographers and the London night club scene, William and Kate became a hot ticket item, and the public was thrilled when the now-Prince of Wales popped the question. Kate looked stunning during their official engagement announcement, proudly wearing the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that had once graced Diana Spencer's finger. And while most were celebrating the royal news, Sarah Ferguson gave a warning to the couple by way of Harper's Bazaar. Clearly speaking from experience, she shared that surviving the royal family took a massive amount of courage, further noting that the young Kate should fight like hell for her marriage.

"All I'd say is, no matter what, stay with your man; don't let him be taken from you," Fergie told the publication, hinting at the structure of the royal family as well as Prince Andrew's career in the Royal Navy that dominated so much of his time. "Prince or no prince, love that man, and that love will hold him."

The Duchess stood by her ex-husband when troubling allegations were made against him

When word began to circulate that Prince Andrew had been involved in the nefarious acts of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, it seemed as though the world stood still. Many sought answers as to Andrew's involvement, friendship with Epstein, and acts he took in violation of a minor who had been trafficked. Amid the troubling allegations, Andrew maintained his innocence to the doubt of the public, and the queen took steps to strip him of his military titles. With such acts, Andrew all but disappeared from public life.

While citizens and world at large made up their minds about Andrew and his behavior fairly quickly, Sarah Ferguson stunned many when she stood by her ex-husband, defending his character publicly. In an interview with People, Fergie highlighted Andrew's role as father to their two daughters and doubled down on her perspective, sharing, "Whatever challenges he has, I will stand firm to the co-parenters that we are together ... I believe that he's a kind, good man, and he's been a fabulous father to the girls."

As noted by Time Magazine, Andrew settled with the then-minor in question, Virginia Giuffre, to the tune of $16 million.

Fergie said a final goodbye to Queen Elizabeth alongside the royal family

When Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022, the world stood still. Yes, her mobility problems and advanced age indicated that her passing was imminent, but the queen's status as a world leader and cultural icon left the public and the royal family in mourning. Attending events, mourning alongside citizens of the United Kingdom, and honoring the queen's life in an official state funeral, the royal family went all out for their beloved matriarch — if ever a person was honored so gloriously, it was the queen. In addition to King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla, William and Catherine, Prince and Princess of Wales, and — controversially — Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was Sarah Ferguson. As noted by People, Fergie attended the queen's funeral despite all the drama that existed between her and the firm, and she even honored the late monarch with a touching brooch — a swallow, signifying a safe journey.

Taking to Twitter shortly after the queen's death, Fergie honored Elizabeth with the following words: "To me, she was the most incredible mother-in-law and friend. I will always be grateful to her for the generosity she showed me in remaining close to me even after my divorce. I will miss her more than words can express."