The Crown season four introduces various new members of the royal family, most notably Diana Princess of Wales (played by Emma Corrin in The Crown cast). However, viewers may have spotted the cameo introduction to another famous royal spouse: Sarah Ferguson (Jessica Aquilina), who married Prince Andrew and became the Duchess of York.
In The Crown season four she’s introduced as Andrew’s fiancé and later his wife, marrying him in July 1986 at Westminster Abbey.
But who was the young Sarah Ferguson, and how did she meet the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew?
Who is Prince Andrew’s bride Sarah Ferguson?
The Crown season four (very briefly) introduces Sarah Ferguson, whom naval officer Prince Andrew married in 1986. They would eventually separate in March 1992 – the year Queen Elizabeth II dubbed her “annus horribilis” – and later divorced in 1996. Ferguson is the mother of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
Ferguson – the press dubbed her “Fergie” – was acquainted with the royal family prior to her engagement; her father, Major Ronald Ferguson, was the Prince of Wales’ polo manager. Ronald Ferguson previously commanded the Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry, bringing him into contact with the Queen. His passion for polo also resulted in a friendship with Prince Philip.
Newspapers first speculated that Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew were a couple in June 1985, when Ferguson was invited to stay at Windsor during Ascot week, before she and Andrew appeared together in the royal box at Ascot. According to the legend, Andrew tried to feed Ferguson a profiterole during a Windsor lunch – and she punched him on the shoulder.
She was invited to Sandringham in the New Year, walking arm-in-arm in sight of photographers. The pair also held hands at the Royal Opera House, a public display of affection that the prince hadn’t permitted himself while dating his ex-girlfriend, actress Koo Stark.
Ferguson had had previous boyfriends prior to the prince, but apparently the royal family were satisfied that the men were “not thought to be the type” to sell kiss-and-tell stories to the British newspapers (via The Times, 18th March 1986).
The royal couple’s July 1986 wedding was watched by an estimated 300 million people worldwide. During the long service a very young Prince William, part of the bridal retinue, “wound his hat chord round his nose, poked himself in the eye and started playing with the toy knife which came with his miniature sailor’s uniform” (via The Guardian).
Did Sarah Ferguson gatecrash Prince Andrew’s stag-do?
Yes, apparently both Sarah Ferguson and Princess Diana dressed up as policewomen in order to gain access to the groom-to-be’s private stag-do.
“The first signal of the change in Princess Diana’s behaviour was Prince Andrew’s stag night when the Princess of Wales and Sarah Ferguson dressed as police women in a vain attempt to gatecrash his party,” Andrew Morton wrote in his 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story.
The stag-do was at Annabel’s nightclub in Berkeley Square, London, where the two women drank champagne and orange juice before retreating to Buckingham Palace, where they stopped Prince Andrew’s car as he returned home.
“Technically the impersonation of police officers is a criminal offence, a point not neglected by several censorious Members of Parliament,” Morton added.
According to the book, the newly married Duke and Duchess of York also hosted a party for those who’d helped organise their wedding, before the Duchess (Ferguson) encouraged everyone to jump, fully-clothed, into the swimming pool at Windsor Castle.
Was young Sarah Ferguson friends with Princess Diana?
Yes, the two women and future sister-in-laws (the “Windsor Wives”) were friends, and were regularly photographed together at public events like polo matches prior to Ferguson’s wedding to Prince Andrew in 1986. They went skiing in Switzerland together, and she and Diana shared much in common: both children of divorced parents, they had both attended boarding school and moved in royal circles.
In a 1992 Times article headlined ‘Cries for Help’, Diana’s biographer Andrew Morton suggested that Sarah Ferguson had been one of Diana’s only sources of comfort during the difficult early months of her first pregnancy.
Diana “took to telephoning her friend, Sarah Ferguson,” and the “irrepressible redhead regularly drove round to Buckingham Palace to cheer up the royal mother-to-be”. During press speculation about both William and Harry’s godparents respectively, Ferguson was frequently mentioned as a strong candidate.
Ahead of Ferguson’s wedding, the bride-to-be’s evolving fashion choices were attributed to her “very good friend,” the stylish Princess Diana.
However, the press frequently pitted the two young royal women against one another. ‘A duchess yorked from the start,” ran The Times headline in 1992, in which writer Libby Purves opined: “In 1986 the consensus was that the new duchess would have to slim down, calm down, refrain from devilish high spirits and adopt the starveling fashion-plate passivity of our then-heroine Diana.”