18 Things You Didn’t Know About Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York
These days, the Duchess of York may be most famous for being Mother-of-the-Bride at the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Mr. Jack Brooksbank. But there’s far more to this fascinating and fiery redhead.
She managed to get the playboy prince to settle down
Throughout the early 1980s, as Prince Charles and his young wife, Diana, settled into married life and set about producing Great Britain’s “heir” (Prince William) and a “spare” (Prince Harry), one of Charles’s younger brothers, HRH Prince Andrew, spent his time cavorting with models and actresses—earning the nicknames the “playboy prince” and “Randy Andy.” But in 1985, a fiery redhead named Sarah Margaret Ferguson caught his eye and won his heart.
She was born into an aristocratic family
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Sarah Margaret Ferguson was born on October 15, 1959, into an aristocratic family with blood ties to the royal family. Throughout her childhood, she occasionally rubbed elbows with Prince Andrew, but it wasn’t until 1985—at the Royal Ascot (an annual royal event at the Ascot Racecourse)—that they formed a romantic connection. He proposed in early 1986 with a ruby ringed by diamonds, which he selected because it complemented Sarah’s flame-colored locks. They married on October 15, 1986, and the couple was styled as the Duke and Duchess of York.
About those blood ties…
Sarah is related to the royal family through several lines, but the most prominent of these is through her paternal grandmother, Marian Montagu Douglas Scott, the first cousin of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester (190 –2004), an aunt of Queen Elizabeth II (Alice married Elizabeth’s uncle, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester) and sister-in-law of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Here are 12 more royals who have married their relatives.
She’s also related to American aristocracy
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Sarah is a descendant of Adam Winthrop, who was the grandfather of Massachusetts Bay Colony founder, John Winthrop. She is also the seventh cousin, seven times removed of the sixth U.S. President, John Quincy Adams. Find out 50 more fascinating facts you didn’t know about the royal family.
Princess Diana was her cousin as well
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Diana, Princess of Wales, was Sarah’s fourth cousin. Their mothers were friends from their school days, but the friendship between Diana and Sarah blossomed in 1980 when Diana was 19 and Sarah was 21. Sarah had attended the wedding of Charles and Diana—alone, since she was not yet involved with Prince Andrew.
Diana made the match
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It was the Princess of Wales who invited Sarah Ferguson to the Royal Ascot in 1985, with the intention of introducing her to her brother-in-law, Prince Andrew. Diana then invited the new but unofficial (and not yet public) couple to visit her and Charles in Highgrove. The romance bloomed quickly, and the couple were married within the year. On the day of their wedding, Prince Andrew was fourth in line to the throne. He is now seventh (behind William’s three children) and soon to be eighth (behind Harry’s first child).
Sarah was the first royal to have a bachelorette party
“Fergie” as the press dubbed her, Diana, and a group of their friends dressed up as policewomen but found themselves in trouble with the actual police for causing a scene outside Buckingham Palace, according to Town & Country. Don’t miss this primer on royal wedding etiquette.
Sarah and Diana were BFFs… until they weren’t
Sarah and Diana shared many light moments, sometimes to the consternation of other members of the royal family, who didn’t necessarily appreciate their “cheekiness.” In 1992, they both separated from their husbands and even vacationed together with their children in the South of France in August 1996. Later that year, Sarah’s autobiography, My Story, came out and included a humorous anecdote that was very much at Diana’s expense (it implied Diana gave Sarah plantar warts when she shared her shoes with her). Diana never spoke to Sarah again.
She’s a licensed helicopter pilot
On December 14, 1987, the Duchess of York earned her helicopter pilot’s wings, becoming the first member of Britain’s royal family to gain a private helicopter pilot’s license (other members of the royal family learned to fly helicopters during military service), according to the Los Angeles Times. “I am constantly surprised by her,” said her husband as he pinned the wings on her sweater during a ceremony at an air force base in Oxfordshire, 40 miles west of London. Sarah, on the eve of their wedding the year before, had vowed to earn her wings. Here’s more about the everyday jobs of royal family members.
Sarah did vow to “obey” Prince Andrew
Speaking of vows, whereas Diana, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle all chose to leave the word “obey” out of their vows, Sarah Ferguson vowed to obey her husband.