Sarah Ferguson – affectionately known as Fergie – married Prince Andrew in their spectacular 1986 royal wedding. Their marriage would end with separation in 1992, followed by their 1996 divorce on the advice of the Queen. Ever since, the Duke and Duchess of York have sparked rumours of a continued royal romance, as they still live together to this day and appear alongside each other at various unofficial events.
Although the pair look like the best of friends, in her 1996 autobiography “My Story”, Fergie revealed the real reasons behind the split from her husband.
She writes: “If ever the Royal Family needed a respite, it was in August of 1992.
“The Queen would later call it her annus horribilis, the year of torn mornings and shattered peace.
“In April, Princess Anne entered divorce proceedings against Captain Mark Phillips.
Th Duke and Duchess of York
Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew pictured during the 1992 split
She continues: “Not one to be left out, I’d had my own bit to contribute.
“From early on that year, Andrew and I had been discussing a separation.
“Not because we’d stopped caring for one another, but because I had reached the end of my royal rope.
Sarah Ferguson with her book “My Story”
“For six years I had shouldered the demands of Palace life.
“I’d endured the constant scrutiny of the British press and the barely veiled hostility of the Royal Household, the courtiers who run the show.
“Gradually, relentlessly, they had beaten me down.
“They were killing me by inches.
“It was time to save my life.”
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Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson timeline
The Duchess of York had to suffer through a further trial in 1992, however, when she was blamed for the news leak of the separation by the Royal Family.
In her 2007 book “The Diana Chronicles”, author Tina Brown reveals: “The Queen was personally infuriated by the leak.”
The leak was “ruinous for Fergie’s relations with the Palace” and would later severely affect her financial negotiations during the divorce.
The Palace was “convinced the Duchess had handed out the information herself”, even “accusing her of hiring a PR company” to hand over the information to the press.
Sarah Ferguson on her 1996 book tour
Fergie pictured still wearing her engagement ring in 1997
In an off-the-record briefing at the time, the Queen’s press secretary called Fergie “unfit for royal life”.
This lead to the infamous BBC headline “The knives are out for Fergie at the Palace”.
However, Ms Brown reveals how Fergie had actually not been the source of the leak at all.
She writes: “After Diana’s death [Andrew] Morton finally revealed that it was the Princess of Wales who had served up her erstwhile best friend to provide the necessary press distraction.”
A rival book was due out weeks before Diana’s own in 1992, and the Fergie distraction was needed to throw the uncomplimentary tell-all book off the front pages.
The Morton book would go on to cause a myriad of problems of its own for Diana with the Royal Family.
However, Ms Brown says: “The Duchess never suspected Diana as the source of the leak.”
Added to this, Fergie’s decision to publish her 1996 autobiography came at the expense of her divorce settlement that year.
The York family on holiday together in 1999
A generous settlement in the divorce proceedings, tipped to have been worth around £7million at the time, would hinge on Fergie remaining silent about her life in the Royal Family.
However, during the divorce battle, the Duchess did not consent to a confidentiality agreement – unlike Princess Diana who walked away with £17million from the Royal Family that year.
The lack of a confidentiality clause meant that she was free to earn money from her autobiographies and other media appearances in which she talked about her royal life.
The Duchess has been estimated to have earned around £2.2million from the sale of her books.