A Close Look At Prince Andrew's Relationship With Sarah Ferguson

This feature contains allegations of sexual abuse.

The British royal family is not immune to scandal and bad press. From high-profile divorces to cheating debacles, the royals have had their fair share of negative media attention. For the former royal couple, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, their once fairytale relationship turned sour following the Prince's demanding career and a risqué affair, which resulted in their very public divorce.

Despite officially divorcing in 1996, the pair have remained close over the years for the sake of their two children and even live in the same home to this day. Throughout their relationship, the pair have endured a number of pressing moments in the spotlight, ranging from Ferguson's bribery scandal to the Prince's friendship with disgraced businessman turned sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. And yet, the foundation of their friendship is strong.

While not the most unusual of partnerships, the pair's relationship is nonetheless intriguing given all that they have experienced together. Here's a peek into the unique relationship between Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

Princess Diana actually set them up

Prior to his relationship with Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson, Prince Andrew was a bit of a loose cannon. According to the Independent, from 1982 to about 1984, the royal dated American actress and photographer Koo Stark. After their split, the young bachelor faced pressure from the royal family to find a suitable woman to court and eventually wed.

Princess Diana played a pivotal role in helping Prince Andrew connect with a young lady by the name of Sarah Ferguson during Ascot Week in June of 1985, as reported by Town & Country. Their meeting was not the first time the Prince and Ferguson had come across one another, though. Per Vanity Fair, Ferguson's father, Major Ronald Ferguson, served both Prince Phillip and King Charles as a polo manager, which allowed her and Prince Andrew to often frequent the same social circles as children and throughout their young adulthood.

With the encouragement of Princess Diana, Prince Andrew and Ferguson started dating that summer, with the pair even accompanying the Princess and King Charles on vacations and at their home residence at Highgrove House. Their whirlwind summer romance would become more serious the following year with a special royal proposal.

The two got engaged and married quickly

By the summer of 1985, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were smitten with one another. Subsequently, the two got engaged less than a year later, on March 19, 1986. Per Hello!, the Prince popped the big question while the two were visiting Floor's Castle in Scotland, which was reportedly the location of their first kiss. The show-stopping ring of choice for the engagement was a Burmese ruby surrounded by ten diamonds, which reportedly cost the Prince £25,000. In the couple's engagement interview, Prince Andrew revealed that the ring symbolized his fiancee's golden red hair, saying, "We came to the mutual conclusion that red was probably the best color for Sarah. That's how we came to the choice of the ruby."

The couple's engagement lasted just about as long as their courting period, and on July 23, 1986, Prince Andrew and Ferguson tied the knot just four months after going public with their engagement. With approximately 500 million TV watchers and thousands in support throughout London, the pair said "I do" at Westminster Abbey. They subsequently celebrated at Buckingham Palace with some 2,000 guests present, including Elton John and Nancy Reagan. The pair would eventually start a family after getting married, though kids wouldn't materialize quite as quickly as their relationship had.

Introducing Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson held off from immediately growing their family, as the Prince had a prolific career in the Royal Navy. However, per Us Weekly, the couple welcomed their first child, Princess Beatrice, into the world on August 8, 1988. Two years after the birth of their first child, the couple brought a second daughter into their brood, with Princess Eugenie, born on March 23, 1990. 

According to Hello!, the young girls spent their childhood in Sunninghill Park with their parents, then moved to the Royal Lodge in Windsor in 2004. The lodge has a lengthy history with the royal family and housed Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, from 1952 to her death in 2002, per Scene Therapy.

Despite having two young children and what appeared to be a picture-perfect marriage, the couple were experiencing problems behind the scenes. With a busy work schedule for Prince Andrew and a growing emotional distance between the pair, the duo would eventually split just two years after Princess Eugenie was born, in 1992.

Prince Andrew's job put strain on their relationship

Not long after Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson said "I do," the couple started to experience problems in their relationship. According to Ferguson's 2011 interview with Harper's Bazaar, the Prince's demanding naval career wasn't exactly conducive to a relationship. "He went to sea [with the Royal Navy] and I saw him 40 days a year for the first five years of our marriage," she explained to the magazine.

At the time of their marriage, Prince Andrew was already a veteran of the Falklands War. He would continue to actively serve as a pilot until his retirement in 2001, as reported by HITC. In a 2007 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Ferguson recalled that the swift change in his naval career came just two weeks after the couple had wed. "I spent my entire first pregnancy alone; when Beatrice was born, Andrew got 10 days of shore leave, and when he left ... I cried," she recalled.

The pair spending scraps of spare time together for the better portion of five years put a significant toll on their relationship, especially for Ferguson, who by 1990, was essentially raising two children by herself. As if their weakened relationship wasn't already on the brink of crumbling, a scandal involving Ferguson would solidify her separation from the royal family for good.

An explosive scandal damaged Sarah's reputation

By March 1992, the marriage between Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson was damaged beyond repair and the two announced that they were separating, as reported by the Independent. The nature of legal separation is frowned upon in the royal family as it is, but when pictures of Ferguson getting cozy with John Bryan, her financial advisor, were published by The Mirror in August 1992, the royal world was turned upside down.

The media response was prompt and shocking, with outlets on both sides of the Atlantic delighting in the spectacle that emerged from the royal scandal. "Sarah Ferguson ... seen smooching, snuggling, nuzzling, embracing, back-rubbing and generally carrying on with her American 'financial adviser,'" wrote The Washington Post about the tabloid images. Despite Ferguson and the Prince being separated for months, the risqué photos brought negative attention to the royal family and thus damaged both Ferguson's and her royal in-law's reputation.

At the time the photos were released, Ferguson was at Balmoral Castle with the royal family, where she was said to have been scalded by Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth. According to Express, Ferguson's father-in-law confronted her with the paper and exclaimed, "There but for the grace of God go I." Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth ordered her immediate exit. Following the incriminating toe-sucking incident, the Duchess was exiled by the royal family which led to her official divorce from Prince Andrew, per W.

Did Sarah remain friendly with Queen Elizabeth?

With their marriage rocky from the start and a separation ridden with scandal, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were divorced by 1996. Per the Chicago Tribune, as part of the divorce agreement, Ferguson was allowed to keep her official royal title of the Duchess of York, though the prefix, "Her Royal Highness," was dropped. Additionally, both the Prince and Ferguson obtained joint custody of their children, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie.

Despite the bitter nature of Ferguson's departure from the inner circles of the royal family, the Duchess surprisingly went on to have a positive relationship with Queen Elizabeth. According to Ferguson's 2007 interview with Harper's Bazaar, she recalled a moment with the Queen, in which she pursued a relationship with her, rather than a huge settlement package like many speculated. "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. But I wanted to be able to say, 'Her Majesty is my friend'— not fight her nor have lawyers saying, 'Look, she is greedy,'" she explained to the magazine.

After their divorce, the Prince and Ferguson would remain committed to raising their children together in a healthy environment.

The children have remained a priority

While a highly publicized and scrutinized divorce can understandably leave many couples at each other's throats, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson never lost sight of what truly mattered to them — raising their young daughters, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie.

The pair's separation was notably, and refreshingly, amicable. In an interview with Hello!, the Duchess discussed her family dynamic and raising her daughters with Prince Andrew. "A table goes best with four legs. A table can't stand on three legs, really, so you have the Duke and I, and the two girls," she explained. "We're a family unit and we lead by example. We support each other emotionally, and we support each other health-wise."

The proof was likely apparent in their children's public affection for both parents. Just prior to celebrating her 18th birthday, Princess Eugenie praised her parents for navigating the split in a way that didn't harm their upbringing. "They are the best divorced couple I know," she told Tatler (via Gazette & Herald). "I don't remember much of the divorce happening. They just always went out of their way to make us feel loved and secure." The family's close-knit bond withstood many tribulations, some of which included the Duchess's tell-all memoirs and a bribery scandal.

Sarah's tell-all memoirs stirred the pot

Following her unofficial departure from the Windsor family, Sarah Ferguson wrote two memoirs, one in 1996 titled, "My Story," and another in 2011 called, "Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself." Her first memoir came just months after her divorce from Prince Andrew was finalized and she did not hold back from sharing her experiences with the royal family. Most notably, the Duchess made intimate claims concerning her photo scandal. As reported by the Mirror, contrary to other reports, she suggested the Queen's reaction was relatively placid to the debacle. However, she alleged that there was a lack of help from palace advisors to contain the story. 

Another revelation that came from "My Story" involved Ferguson's friendship with Princess Diana, in which the Duchess shared that she got plantar warts from sharing shoes with the late Princess, per The Guardian. The anecdote was allegedly so infuriating to Princess Diana that she ended their friendship immediately. By the time of her tragic death in 1997, the two were not on speaking terms.

Ferguson's second memoir hit shelves in 2011. Per The New York Times, it focused on her journey of self-discovery after facing down the unrelenting press, as well as dealing with substantial personal debt, and even coping with the aftermath of yet another scandal — this time, involving bribery and her ex-husband, Prince Andrew.

A bribery scandal once again tarnished Sarah's image

By the 1990s and 2000s, Sarah Ferguson was in a significant amount of debt. According to The Guardian, by 2010, the Duchess was on the brink of bankruptcy and allegedly owed between £2 million and £5 million. At the time, Prince Andrew was reportedly piecing together a plan to avoid the shame that claiming bankruptcy would bring to both Ferguson and the royal family, but the Duchess had other plans to consolidate her debt. 

On May 23, 2010, British tabloid News of the World released footage of Ferguson accepting a bribe totaling £500,000 from an undercover reporter posing as a wealthy businessman in exchange for access to Prince Andrew. At the time, the royal served as the U.K.'s special representative for international trade and investment, per Oprah. The scandal once again brought negative attention to the royal family and placed an already vulnerable Ferguson in the spotlight. Following the release of the footage, the Duchess released a statement, saying in part, "It is true that my financial situation is under stress however, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment and I am very sorry that this has happened. I can confirm that The Duke of York was not aware or involved in any of the discussions that occurred," per ABC News.

While it is true that Prince Andrew remained close to his ex-wife throughout her ups and downs, she would also support him after accusations were brought forth regarding his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.

The two remain friends to this day

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson have undoubtedly experienced their fair share of trials and tribulations. Through it all, however, the two have remained very close, and even continue to live together at Royal Lodge in Windsor, as reported by Express. Since her 1996 divorce from him, Ferguson has not hidden her love for her ex-husband. The Duchess told the Daily Mail in 2018, "​​Andrew is the best man I know ... My duty is to him. I am so proud of him. I stand by him and always will. The way we are is our fairy tale." 

Duty and loyalty has gone a long way for Ferguson, who even publicly supported Prince Andrew during his own scandal concerning his close connection to Jeffrey Epstein. The billionaire was a convicted child sex offender who was charged with sex trafficking offenses in 2019. Per The Guardian, Prince Andrew stepped back from his royal duties after he was also accused of sexual abuse, in a case that involved Epstein. 

Ferguson stood strong by his side, telling Porta a Porta (via The International News), "I completely stand by Andrew 100 percent ... He is such a kind, great man, he is a brilliant father and now a fantastic grandfather." Following a disastrous interview with BBC's Newsnight and an overwhelming public outcry for disciplinary action, the Prince resigned from public duties and was subsequently stripped of his military titles and royal patronages in 2022, per BBC.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).