I have gone out of my way to mostly ignore Sarah, Duchess of York (Prince Andrew’s ex-wife) due to the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” Indeed, it’s for this same reason that I usually only reference Andrew when he happens to have attended a large family event. The only exception to this is a post from early last year that covered memorable public statements made by Andrew pertaining to the roles of his daughters in the “slimmed down” monarchy model that the Prince of Wales is said to favor.
My reason for writing that post was that it was particularly newsworthy and it is for that same reason I find myself circling back to the York family again today. So, here we go:
As we covered here, it was announced on Monday that Princess Eugenie is engaged to her long-term boyfriend, Jack Brooksbank. The two are due to marry this autumn at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor – the same venue at which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in May.
As background for those less familiar with this sect of the Royal Family, Andrew is the second son and third child of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1986 he married Sarah Ferguson and the couple had two daughters: Princess Beatrice (b. 1988) and Princess Eugenie (b. 1990). The couple separated in March 1992, which was followed five months later with tabloid photos capturing Sarah (commonly known as “Fergie”) with her American boyfriend in a, shall we say, intimate moment. As a result, Sarah became deeply unpopular with the extended RF and public writ large, and she and Andrew were finally divorced in May 1996.
Following the split, Sarah ceased to be “the Duchess of York” and instead became “Sarah, Duchess of York.” You would be forgiven for thinking that she had a fair bit in common with her former sister-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales, but there was one key difference: the Waleses had considerably more money than the Yorks. Once outside the royal fold, Sarah was forced to make her own money, which included endorsement deals with Weight Watchers, product promotion and reality television shows.
While her reasons for needing to work, however undignified some of it seemed in the context of the RF, are understandable, she has a bigger problem with consistently putting her foot in her mouth. She’s also wildly indiscreet. She has written a tell-all book. She maintains a close relationship with Andrew – indeed the two often share a roof – and drops annoying hints to the media that they might remarry. She regularly comments on members of the RF, including a cringe-worthy interview she gave about Andrew comforting her after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge failed to invite her to their 2011 wedding.
Then there are the actual scandals. In 2010, Sarah was filmed by the tabloid, News of the World, offering to facilitate access to her ex-husband in exchange for cash. When the story was published, she issued an embarrassing, too emotional apology talking about how amazing Andrew is. In 2012, Turkey issued an arrest warrant for her after she illegally filmed at a state orphanage there in 2008. These are to name just two and frankly, Andrew’s CV isn’t much better.
Andrew and Sarah aren’t highly regarded by the public, to say the least. This has occasionally extended to their daughters, particularly when it wasn’t clear what their role as royals would be and the younger generation was known for taking holidays and attending nightclubs through the recession. This has mostly turned around for all involved, though I do think it’s fair to say that Eugenie is more popular with the press and royal watchers than Beatrice.
Eugenie, by all accounts, is particularly friendly with Harry, and appears to have a warm relationship with Kate. She, like them, is based at Kensington Palace and her ability to maintain a stable career in the art world has won her some respect from a public particularly sensitive to how hard members of the RF are working.
On the day Eugenie’s engagement went public, the announcement came from Buckingham Palace and Andrew, though a bit strangely the press release referred to Sarah as “the Duchess of York.” Quite literally this is incorrect and if ever there was a source you would think would use the proper style to refer to royals it would be the family itself. Then again, I suppose it avoided specifically highlighting the couple’s divorce, but, well, they are in fact divorced.
Later in the day, Andrew personally expressed his delight in the engagement and his approval of Brooksbank for his daughter. However, as the day unfolded, Sarah sent out a series of bizarre memes via Twitter featuring what appeared to be private photos of the young couple overlayed with cloying messages and platitudes. I’m not going to post all of them, but you can see some more here. At first they read like the overexcited, if slightly tone deaf, social media activity of your typical mother, but as the day unfolded, it started to feel weirder and weirder. That, combined with the fact that the couple participated in an interview and chose to be married at Windsor instead of, say, a more private venue leaves one with the vague sense of courting public opinion. Then again, it’s not exactly fair to judge the daughter for the sins of the mother.
To make things even murkier, Sarah was due to sit down for a televised interview with the BBC on Monday evening, but it was abruptly cancelled at the last minute, prompting speculation she was “silenced” by Andrew, Eugenie and/or the Palace following the tweets. Frankly, that’s not out of the question.
Timing-wise, no further information has been released beyond “autumn” for the big day itself, however an anonymous source was picked up by media as saying that Eugenie and Brooksbank ideally wanted to marry in September when the Queen will still be on holiday at Balmoral, but that the month has been sealed off for a potential foreign tour for Harry and Meghan. Instead, the couple have been asked to hold off until October. The veracity of this is debatable, but a part of me hopes it’s true only because I can’t wait for a Meghan/Harry tour.
And if that wasn’t enough, Brooksbank’s grandmother spoke to reporters, telling them of her delight in the engagement. Unfortunately, she also expressed her amazement that Eugenie chose her grandson given that he was “not the most intelligent” and “ordinary,” noting that, “I wouldn’t say there is anything special about him, he’s a good-looking, nice chap and I think it says a lot about Eugenie that it’s him she wants and it’s lovely.” Yikes.
At the end of the day, let’s all look forward to the awkward family dynamics that will be on display this fall. If history is any indication, it should be a wild ride.