The stunning transformation of Princess Eugenie

While growing up as a princess obviously entails being in the spotlight, Princess Eugenie has been in the news much more recently — all thanks to her upcoming wedding to longtime boyfriend Jack Brooksbank.

In addition to the excitement of her imminent wedding, the Princess has led a fascinating life thus far. The sixth grandchild of Queen Elizabeth, Eugenie was, at the time of her birth in 1990, sixth in line for the throne. (Following the births of Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, she is now ninth in the line of succession.) Given the full name Eugenie Victoria Helena, all three names get their royal significance from Queen Victoria: Queen Victoria's granddaughter was named Eugenie, and Helena was the name of Victoria's third daughter.

While her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York (also known as Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson), split when she was a child, she has reportedly remained close to both parents as well as her older sister, Princess Beatrice. Growing up as a princess has meant an exciting life, but that's not all there is to her. Here's the stunning transformation of Princess Eugenie.

She had spinal surgery as a child

After being diagnosed with scoliosis, the princess underwent corrective surgery at 12 years old. "What was meant to be a one-hour operation took eight," she explained to the British publication Tattler (via Telegraph). "But it worked. They put in two metal rods and eight one-inch screws." This was, obviously, a major surgery, and it made quite a strong impression on the young royal. 

"It was terrifying," she said, "but, actually, it was more scary when they told me I needed to have it done in the first place." She wound up in the intensive care unit for three days after the surgery, and then spent six days in a wheelchair before walking again. During her time in the hospital, her mother stayed in the room next door so she could be close by if Eugenie needed anything. "I used to ring her and she would come in in her slippers and dressing-gown and help me with whatever I needed. It was a huge comfort," she said.

She's very close with her older sister

While Eugenie and her older sister, Beatrice, did get into a couple of spats when they were growing up — Eugenie told Vogue UK that their biggest fight was over a pair of Converse shoes — those sisterly arguments didn't damage their relationship at all.

"We're each other's rocks," Eugenie said. In fact, they often bounce back and forth between who takes care of whom. Once when the sisters were hosting an event with their father, some bad press about Princess Beatrice had her understandably upset. "We were about to step out [of the car] and she had a bit of a wobble and cried," Eugenie explained. I was looking after her. And then about an hour later, I had a bit of a wobble and started crying and Bea was there for me." Not surprisingly, Beatrice will be Eugenie's maid of honor at her wedding, and it's clear that the bond between these sisters is quite strong.

She and her sister are opposites

Born only 21 months after Beatrice, Eugenie told Tattler that she's "definitely not as polite as Beatrice… I tell it as it is. I am shyer at first. Like, at a party I will say to Beatrice as we go in, 'Oh, you go first.' But then, when we're actually in, I am much louder and she is far more polite and solicitous." 

In a similar opposite fashion, while Beatrice takes after their mother in her love for big, curly hair, Eugenie prefers to wear hers flat and sleek. And in contrast to her sister's love of bold fashion statements and glamour, she prefers understated clothes like blue jeans. "We're chalk and cheese," she explained.

Like any pair, Eugenie and her sister complement each other. "We get on fantastically well, perhaps because we do and think different things," Eugenie said. As with most sisters, "we sometimes fight about clothes. … Like all sisters, we have silly arguments about unimportant stuff, but we do love each other to death."

She doesn't always love being a royal

When asked if she enjoys being a princess, Eugenie told Tattler that "I don't like talking about it much and find it annoying" when people try to make a big deal out of her royal status. "One of my best friends jokingly says, 'Hi, Princess,' and I say, 'Shut up,'" she explained. "It is one of the things that bugs me most in the world."

Clearly not one to capitalize on, or try to take advantage of, her royal status, Eugenie reportedly only goes to Buckingham Palace for big occasions, and she visits the Queen's private estates only for Christmas (at Sandringham) and summer vacation (at Balmoral). Nonetheless, she clearly reveres her grandmother — whom she calls Granny — and described her as "Truly one of the most amazing women ever." She went on to say that the Queen is "also very funny. You can tell when she is happy, having all her family round at Christmas and watching them all laugh and having so much fun on Christmas Day. It just makes her very happy."

She's got impressive academic credentials

While studying at Marlborough College — which, despite its name, is actually a secondary school that serves students between ages 13 and 18 — Eugenie completed her A-level exams in Art, English Literature, and History of Art. She went on to study at Newcastle University in northern England, and in 2012 she graduated with a Combined Honours Bachelors degree in English Literature, History of Art, and Politics. She may be a princess, but she's clearly no slouch when it comes to her education. She's also goal oriented and laser-focused, working from a young age toward a goal — and succeeding, considering she now works full-time in the art world.

Not surprisingly, given her education in art history, she's also an art aficionado. "I've loved art since I was very little. I knew I definitely wouldn't be a painter, but I knew this was the industry for me. I love being able to share my passion for art with people," she explained to Harper's Bazaar

She has a full-time job

Given her royal status, people may be surprised to find that she has both a full-time job and a career outside of her life as a princess. In fact, after she graduated from university she lived in New York for two years, where she worked as an art specialist with the online auction house Paddle8. Since returning to London in 2015, she has worked as the assistant director for the London branch of Hauser & Wirth, a contemporary art gallery. "I work with colleagues in London as well as our galleries in L.A., New York, Somerset in the U.K., and Zurich," she explained to Harper's Bazaar. "Part of my job is planning special projects, supporting the artists in the gallery and managing events."

As she and Beatrice told Vogue UK, their role as royals who have both careers and royal responsibilities is unprecedented. "There is no protocol," Beatrice said. "We are the first: we are young women trying to build careers and have professional lives, and we're also princesses and doing all of this in the public eye."

She just joined Instagram

After joining Instagram in March, Princess Eugenie has faced a bit of a learning curve. "I recently got in trouble for posting a picture of Papa in a corridor of the palace that was off-limits to the public," she explained to Vogue UK. In fact, prior to her interview with Vogue UK, she was debating which picture to share of her father in honor of Father's Day. After finding one suggestion too private and another one too formal, she ultimately went with a childhood picture of her and her beloved dad.

So why, in an era of social media ubiquity, is Princess Eugenie allowed to have her own Instagram account, while Meghan Markle had to shut hers down before getting engaged to Prince Harry? According to Vogue, it all comes down to whether one is a so-called working royal. Working royals are those who don't work outside the palace, and whose full-time job is to be a representative of the monarchy to the public. Because Eugenie isn't among the "working royals" she has more flexibility than her cousins.

She's a philanthropist

Princess Eugenie became an active and involved philanthropist shortly after she finished university in 2012. Since then, she's been a Patron of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), which is where she had her back surgery as a child — and as part of her work as a Patron, she participated in an overnight bicycle ride through London to raise money for the hospital. 

Understandably, the RNOH holds a special place in her heart: as she said during the hospital's fundraising campaign, "Without the care I received at the RNOH I wouldn't look the way I do now; my back would be hunched over. And I wouldn't be able to talk about scoliosis the way I now do, and help other children who come to me with the same problem." Her experience there was clearly life-changing, and thanks to her efforts on behalf of the hospital's fundraising appeal, a unit at the hospital will be named the Princess Eugenie House. 

She's serious about her role as a royal Patron

Princess Eugenie's philanthropic reach has expanded as she's settled into adulthood. She has become Patron of the Elephant Family — a charity that advocates for the protection and conservation of Asian elephants — as well as the Teenage Cancer Trust, the London-based Coronet Theatre, and The European School of Osteopathy.

She also recently co-founded the Anti-Slavery Collective, which advocates for better, more open discussions about modern slavery. She also partnered with Project Zero, an organization that seeks to greatly reduce the use of single-use plastics. "It's been eye-opening," she told Vogue UK. "My whole house is anti-plastic now — and Jack and I want our wedding to be like that as well."

In fact, she told Harper's Bazaar that she spends most evenings after work going to events for her role as a royal Patron. Luckily, her employer is "very accommodating and understanding of my sense of duty," so she often leaves work and goes right to a charity engagement. Needless to say, her schedule is not for the faint of heart. 

She met her fiance while skiing

She and her soon-to-be husband, Jack Brooksbank, met when Eugenie was just 20 years old. They met while on a ski trip, and as Brooksbank said in an interview with the BBC, it was "love at first sight. … We have the same passions and drive for life," Eugenie said, and after seven years of dating, Brooksbank proposed in January 2018. The two were on vacation in Nicaragua, and just as the sun was setting over a scenic lake, he popped the question. "It was a complete surprise," Eugenie said. "It was the perfect moment, and we couldn't be happier."

Brooksbank chose a center stone for the ring's design and proposed to Eugenie without a ring so the two could design it together after returning to London. Brooksbank chose the stone, known as a padparadscha sapphire, because "it changes colour from every different angle that you look at it, which is what I think of Eugenie." It's clearly an extraordinary ring befitting of an extraordinary woman.