The untold truth of Sarah Ferguson

Born on October 15, 1959, Sarah Margaret Ferguson — famously known as Fergie — secured a place for herself in both history books and pop culture when she married Prince Andrew, Duke of York, son of Queen Elizabeth II. Though her royal marriage was short-lived, Ferguson has been unable to escape the court of public opinion, often finding herself the target of harsh criticism and tabloid fodder due to her complicated relationship with the royal family and what some perceive to be a sordid past. 

With the marriage and subsequent pregnancy announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle dominating most of 2018's royal headlines, Ferguson has enjoyed a somewhat quiet year. However, when her youngest daughter, Princess Eugenie, married Jack Brooksbank in a royal wedding ceremony on October 12, 2018, Ferguson once again found herself making headlines for everything from her choice of hat to her reported beef with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for overshadowing her daughter's big day. 

Nevertheless, there's more than one side to every story — and there's much more to Fergie than meets the eye. Here's what you don't know about Sarah Ferguson. 

She's always been memorable ... but not for academics

It would appear that Sarah Ferguson was a memorable type of person long before she became the Duchess of York. And, despite the fluctuating public opinion of her now, the record shows that Ferguson was always a well-liked individual.

According to an official biography (via The Washington Post), Ferguson was known in boarding school for her "jolly dormitory japes," or practical jokes, which included sliding down the hall on mattresses and initiating food fights in the cafeteria. The biography also states that while Ferguson "excelled at swimming and tennis," she was significantly less known for her "academic achievement." However, the future Duchess was certainly popular among her peers, as she was elected to be "head girl" by her fellow schoolmates. 

Upon completing the British equivalent of high school, Ferguson went on to attend a secretarial college in London. According to The Washington Post, her entrance interview card described her as having "initiative and personality which she will use to her advantage when she gets older," and noted she "accepts responsibility happily." 

She and Princess Diana were cousins, best friends, and everything in between

Arguably most notable and beloved of all the royal family is Diana, Princess of Wales, with whom Sarah Ferguson enjoyed a close friendship — though it was not without its complications. 

According to Town & Country, Princess Diana and Ferguson were cousins, as both were descendants of William Cavendish, Fourth Duke of Devonshire. Even so, the two didn't form a close relationship until 1980, when Ferguson was 21 and Diana was 19. As Diana navigated life as a royal after marrying Prince Charles, Ferguson was reportedly her confidant and closest friend. In 1996, Ferguson wrote in her autobiography, "[Diana] was two years younger than I, and I strove to support and protect her as I would a younger sister—as I still do today, as a best friend." 

However, the friendship wasn't all rainbows and butterflies. Diana reportedly told her biographer, Andrew Morton, that Ferguson "wooed everybody in [the royal family] and did it so well," leaving Diana "looking like dirt." While it's safe to say Princess Diana never looked like dirt a day in her life, it's comforting to know that even royals get jealous sometimes, too. 

She was attacked during her marriage to Prince Andrew

Sarah Ferguson married Prince Andrew on July 23, 1986, in a ceremony fit for a fairy tale. She had been introduced to the prince by her close pal, Princess Diana, who had recommended the Queen invite Ferguson to a "dine and sleep" event at Windsor Castle during Ascot week. While Ferguson seemed delighted in her marriage to Prince Andrew, her newfound fame as a royal did not come without its pitfalls. Much like Princess Diana — whose fatal automobile accident is often attributed to the hoards of paparazzi– Ferguson, who became the Duchess of York upon her royal marriage, found that her royal role carried with it the potential for danger at the hands of the public.

According to reports, the Duchess of York was attacked by a supporter of the Irish Republican Army while in New York city for a Broadway benefit. The assailant reportedly yelled out, "Murderers 3/8," while wielding a flag and charging at the Duchess. Though she was unharmed and said to be "perfectly relaxed about it," there's no doubt that the incident left Ferguson a little shaken up. 

Distance makes the heart... lonely

In 1986, Sarah Ferguson was on top of the world — and she had every reason to be. Not only had she just married the handsome Prince Andrew and become the Duchess of York, she was beloved by both the pubic and the royal family for her jovial disposition, warmth, and charm. In August 1988, Ferguson had even more reason to celebrate when she gave birth to her first daughter with Prince Andrew, Beatrice. The birth of their second daughter, Eugenie, followed just two years later, seemingly reinforcing the "happily ever after" storybook trope.

Unfortunately, Ferguson wasn't living inside a story book, and real life began to take its toll. According to biographer Sarah Bradford, the Duchess of York found herself ill-equipped to handle her husband's life as a naval officer, which often required him to be away from home for extended periods of time. As the couple drifted apart, Ferguson seemed to find comfort in the company of other men. The tabloid circuit had a field day with Ferguson's reported infidelities, and she and Prince Andrew decided to separate in 1992, finalizing their divorce four years later.

She has a complicated relationship with the royal family

Anyone familiar with the royal family knows of the complicated relationship between the royals and Sarah Ferguson. After her separation from Prince Andrew in 1992, Ferguson was photographed sunbathing topless with American financial manager, John Bryan. The photos were published by the British tabloid, Daily Mirror, humiliating Ferguson and earning her spot as the butt of many a joke within the news media. Of course, this didn't sit well with the royal family; Princess Margaret even reportedly wrote to the Duchess, "You have done more to bring shame on the family than could ever have been imagined." 

Though years have passed since Ferguson's separation from Prince Andrew, it seems that time does not heal all. Ferguson was notably not invited to Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011, though she didn't seem to let it get her down. "I understand that they didn't invite me," Ferguson told Harper's Bazaar. "I think it's a new chapter and a fresh page." 

However, Ferguson was invited to Prince Harry's 2018 wedding to Meghan Markle, leaving some to wonder if her relationship with the royal family is on the mend.

One scandal leads to another

Though Sarah Ferguson was no longer a member of the royal family, the tabloids simply weren't ready to let go of the person who had provided them with such sensational headlines through the years. 

In 2010, Ferguson found herself at the center of an undercover investigative journalism exposé when she was recorded offering "access" to her former husband, Prince Andrew, in exchange for £500,000 (or $653,296). Ferguson was recorded telling the undercover reporter to wire the money to her HSBC bank account, saying, "That opens up everything you would ever wish for. I can open any door you want, and I will for you. Look after me and [Prince Andrew will] look after you… you'll get it back tenfold." Ferguson apologized as soon as the tapes were released, calling it a "serious lapse in judgement." However, the apology did little to improve her image.

In 2012, Ferguson once again made headlines — this time for going undercover herself to film a documentary exposing the poor conditions of a Turkish orphanage. Though the UK refused Turkey's extradition request, Ferguson could still be arrested should she ever return to the country.

Oprah to the rescue

When you're a former royal with a history of rumored infidelities and attempted bribery who is seeking to restore your reputation, who better to call than Oprah Winfrey — America's own royalty?  

In 2011, it was announced that Sarah Ferguson would be partnering with Winfrey's new television network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), for a six-part documentary series called Finding Sarah. The network deal came on the heels of the investigative reporting scandal that saw Ferguson offer an undercover reporter access to her former husband for no small amount of money, shredding her already damaged reputation into pieces. However, as revealed in the series, Ferguson was ready to forget the incident altogether. 

"I really don't want this to be all about the tape," Ferguson told Dr. Phil McGraw (via the New York Times) after he urged her to come clean about the hidden camera scandal. It's hard to say if the OWN series helped Ferguson rebuild her reputation, but the six-part journey of self-discovery was an eye-opening watch, nonetheless. 

"I'm the best mom I know"

Throughout all of the trials and tribulations that have followed Sarah Ferguson in the wake of her separation and subsequent divorce from Prince Andrew, one thing has remained constant — she shares an unmistakably close bond with her daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. In a 2011 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Ferguson didn't hold back for the sake of modesty, saying, "The only thing I know I've done 100 percent right is be a good mother. I'm proud to say I'm the best mom I know."

At Princess Eugenie's October 2018 wedding to Jack Brooksbank, Ferguson looked every bit the part of the adoring mother, nearly bursting at the seams with pride and wearing a diamond-encrusted bracelet that read "Eugenie" on one side and "Beatrice" on the other. Upon arriving to Saint George's Chapel with her eldest daughter, Ferguson smiled and waved at fans anxiously awaiting outside the royal wedding venue, who applauded and cheered when she stepped out of the car. Though she may not technically be a royal, the mother of the bride certainly received a warm and royal welcome.