Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew: Behind the first royals to consciously uncouple

Amidst the disastrous interview at the weekend in which Prince Andrew had to answer accusations of a lack of judgement over his links with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, one thing that hasn't gone unnoticed is the unwavering support of his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson. Throughout the years – and some questionable behaviour from both – they have been the only royal couple to remain apart, together. In fact, they invented the term consciously uncoupling – even if they didn't know it themselves. Their relationship has always been a source of intrigue, and never more so now     


There has been, it's safe to say, plenty of strange goings-on in the royal family. They are never far from the press, and nothing feeds gossip fodder like a scandal.  The Duke and Duchess of York as they were known, have been caught up in plenty of that, despite the fact that they had a rather harmonious divorce (by royal standards at any rate).

In an Instagram post shared Friday ahead of his controversial BBC interview Saturday, Ferguson defended her ex-husband, calling him a "real gentleman" and "principled man," announcing she is "with him every step of the way".

 

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"A united family"

It isn't the first time she has spoken highly of Prince Andrew; she had nothing but happy things to say about her still strong bond and relationship in her first interview given in two decades, late last year.

The two still live together in the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, despite being divorced for years — setting the trend long before Gwyneth Paltrow made it a thing.

"We have always walked tall and strong, he for me and me for him. We are the best examples of joint parenting..."

"July 23, 1986 was the happiest day of my life. Andrew is the best man I know. Although we are not a couple, we really believe in each other. The Yorks are a united family. We've shown it."

 

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"We're the happiest divorced couple in the world," she continued. "We're divorced to each other, not from each other. We both say it. We are completely compatible. Our bywords are communication, compromise and compassion. We stand up for each other, fight for each other. We're totally respectful of each other's position and thoughts and we listen to each other. "

Related: Living Apart Together: In praise of Gwyneth Paltrow's modern living arrangements

A unique, sometimes scandalous, royal relationship

Sarah and the Prince – the second son of the Queen and Prince Philip – were introduced by the late Princess Diana. Initially, the couple met as children. Years later, Diana invited Sarah to a party at Windsor Castle, where the pair met again and promptly started dating. Andrew proposed after a whirlwind romance and the couple announced their engagement in March 1986. They were married at Westminster Abbey on 23 July 1986 (a lavish spectacle watched by 500 million), and welcomed daughter Beatrice in August 1988, followed by Eugenie in March 1990.

 

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When their daughter Princess Eugenie was married at St. George’s Chapel in October last year, it was the first time Sarah had been officially accepted back into the royal fold following an unofficial ban issued by Prince Philip following the couple's divorce in 1992. At the time, the couple were said to have split due to Prince Andrew being away for months at a time, though it was amicable, they insisted.

Related: The official photos of Princess Eugenie's royal wedding have been released 

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The rift with Philip reportedly began with the infamous “toe-sucking” scandal, when Sarah was photographed sunbathing topless in the South of France and having her toes kissed by her then-financial adviser, John Bryan. Philip has reportedly never forgiven her for the embarrassment the episode caused, though the Queen is said to have fond feelings for her, regardless.

Things didn't always go smoothly even then; Ferguson was caught on tape several years ago demanding $821,000 in return for business access to her ex-husband and had to offer a public apology, return the $40,000 down payment she had received, and also offered to move out of Andrew’s home (though their living arrangments remained the same).

Related: Meghan Markle and the hypocritical reporting of the royal family

Rumours of reconciliation were rife during Eugenie's engagement, leading to Sarah releasing a statement: "The Duke and Duchess remain good friends as they have been for many years, and nothing has changed.”

And while many "insiders" were always quick to point the finger at Ferguson for the marriage failure – fingers pointing at a female in the royal family? No surprise there – the prince’s dissolute lifestyle and friendship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein have been a talking point for years. Though he has denied all claims against him – and continues to do so. The interview was meant to help clear his name once and for all, but it had the opposite effect.

He announced he will be stepping down from public duties, saying the controversy surrounding his "ill-judged" association with late US financier Jeffrey Epstein had caused major disruption to the royal family's work.

"It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family's work," he said in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace.

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"Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."

They remain united regardless, something the tabloids will no doubt latch onto, as the aftermath of the interview continues.

Main photograph: @vogueaustralia 


Related: Why the Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy theories risk overshadowing what really went on

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Related: Jeffrey Epstein's death means his victims are left without justice

Related: 'I refuse to let this man win': The women who will not be silenced by Jeffrey Epstein

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