The Real Reason Prince Andrew And Sarah Ferguson Got Divorced

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were married from 1986 to 1996, though they spent the last four years of their marriage separated, with their interactions and shared moments not entirely known. While some have noted that the pair knew each other as children, many credit Sarah's former sister-in-law, Princess Diana, with officially reintroducing the pair. As Vanity Fair put it, Diana requested that Sarah be invited to the 1985 Royal Ascot, where she and Andrew met. They quickly fell in love and married the following year.

Though their 1996 divorce was mired in controversy and drama, especially as Sarah was accused of infidelity after salacious photos were shared of her on holiday with her "financial adviser," the two have maintained an impressive relationship throughout the years that followed. While it's possible the biggest reason for their post-divorce relationship has been their two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, in September 2021, Sarah herself insisted to local news in Poland that "divorce is one thing, but my heart is my oath" (via the Daily Mail). She even told Harper's Bazaar that the divorce was "the most painful time of my life."

Here is a look at the real reasons why Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's marriage failed and what their relationship looks like these days.

Soon after marrying, the couple had to spend months apart

At the time of their marriage, Prince Andrew enjoyed a career in the British Navy that many have described as quite successful. While his job was important, both personally and for his family, it also meant that Andrew spent very little time with his wife. In fact, Sarah Ferguson later admitted to Harper's Bazaar that the two only spent 40 days together each year in the first five years of their marriage, a reality that was difficult for her to process and accept.

Sarah also told the publication that when she and Andrew married, she had only one request that he was never able to fulfill. As she explained, "I married my boy, who happened to be a prince and a sailor, because I loved him—and still do—my only condition being, 'I have to be with you.'" Only two weeks after the wedding, however, the royal family sent Andrew back out to sea (per Harper's Bazaar).

While neither Andrew nor Sarah have commented in great detail about the circumstances that led to their separation and divorce, others have inferred that the many weeks and months they spent apart led Sarah to grow bored with the relationship in general. As the Chicago Tribune noted the year the two legally split up, royal author Sarah Bradford wrote that Sarah was often turned off by Andrew's behavior when they were together, describing it as "embarrassingly boorish."

Sarah Ferguson later admitted she spent her first pregnancy alone

As Sarah Ferguson later lamented to Harper's Bazaar, Prince Andrew was told he would need to return to sea only two weeks after their wedding. He subsequently spent an enormous time away from home, even missing the entirety of Sarah's first pregnancy with Princess Beatrice. Sarah later told the magazine that people at Buckingham Palace were less than understanding when she got upset about her husband being gone, explaining that, after Beatrice's birth, "Andrew got 10 days of shore leave, and when he left and I cried, they all said: 'Grow up and get a grip.'"

Sarah, however, went on to encourage other royal brides to stick by their husbands and to insist they stay together. As she put it, "Stay with your man; don't let him be taken from you" (via Harper's Bazaar). While it's impossible to know what their marriage might have been like if Andrew had been home more, especially during Sarah's pregnancy with Beatrice, it certainly seems that Sarah herself believes it could have ended very differently.

Things fell apart after Sarah Ferguson 'brought shame' upon the royal family

Things between Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson officially began to sour in 1992 when the pair announced their separation. That August, Sarah had been photographed on vacation with John Bryan. Up to that point, Sarah had insisted that Bryan was little more than a "financial adviser" to the Duchess of York, but photographs captured by the paparazzi revealed that the two enjoyed quite an intimate relationship. In the photos, Bryan is seen kissing Sarah's toes (via the Daily Mail).

The story quickly broke, and Sarah found herself in the humiliating position of being at the royal residence Balmoral along with the rest of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were reportedly mortified by the news. The Daily Mail later wrote that Philip, in particular, did not want to even be in the same room as Sarah and insisted she "brought shame" to the entire family. Rumors of animosity between Sarah and Philip persisted for years. 

In April 1996, the Chicago Tribune reported that their divorce was expected to be finalized the following month. Sarah would be allowed to use her Duchess of York title but was stripped of all other royal affiliations. The pair's lawyer explained that both parties could continue to be responsible for their children, then ages 7 and 6, writing in a formal statement, "The children will continue to live with the duchess, and both parents will participate fully in their upbringing."

The duchess says she was forced to agree to the divorce

Even though she had her complaints about her marriage, especially regarding her husband's extensive time away from home, Sarah Ferguson has admitted she felt forced into agreeing to divorce Prince Andrew in 1996, largely owing to the circumstances surrounding practical matters that needed sorting out. For starters, Sarah was interested in pursuing employment, something she couldn't do as a member of the royal family.

As she told Harper's Bazaar, though she and Andrew were separated, it didn't have to mean divorce was inevitable. Yet, Sarah's yearning to work outside the family was something royals are not allowed to do. She explained, "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."

Sarah also shared with the magazine that when it was time to strike a divorce settlement with Queen Elizabeth, she surprised the monarch by telling her that she only wanted friendship with the queen and nothing else. She said she knew doing so would require her to work but that she was playing a longer game, adding, "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."

The former couple may be interested in remarrying each other

In the years that have elapsed between the time Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson divorced, rumors surfaced that one or both parties are interested in remarrying one another. Friends of the couple told Vanity Fair that the pair lived together in 2020 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and that things between the two seem as good, or even better, than they ever have. One source said, "It has rekindled something and I can see a second wedding happening if it all goes Andrew's way."

For her part, Sarah has admitted that she and Andrew are both still in love with one another. She told the Daily Mail, "We both say it. We are completely compatible. Our bywords are communication, compromise and compassion." Sarah added that her wedding day was "the happiest day of my life."

But when asked if she would remarry Andrew, Sarah played coy, insisting the two are content with the life they have together now. As she explained to the Daily Mail, "We enjoy each other's company; we allow each other to blossom. I know it sounds like a fairy tale but that's the way we are."