Bouncy, boisterous and thoroughly unstuffy, Sarah Ferguson seemed the ideal partner for Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second son.
Andrew had delighted his mother and the nation by serving as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands War, risking his life and returning to a hero’s welcome with a red rose between his teeth.
The Prince’s valour inclined his mother to take an indulgent view of his romps with women such as Koo Stark, the soft-porn movie star. But the Queen welcomed Fergie, the daughter of Prince Charles’ polo manager Major Ronald Ferguson, as one of the family, and soon mother and daughter-in-law were chatting happily about horses.
Fergie had even more intimate chats with her sister-in-law Diana. One summer at Royal Ascot they poked their umbrellas into the backside of a woman in front of them, and were photographed giggling fiendishly under their hats.
Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in Westminster Abbey on 23 July 1986. Over 350 million viewers watched the wedding all over the world.
Coverage of the festivities began at 06:00 am and ITV and BBC teams vied with each other to cover every aspect, from the early-morning shots of Major Ferguson’s bristling eyebrows to the carpet-sweepers at the Abbey.
Cameras caught Prince William fiddling with his hat-strap, the Queen chasing an erring page boy and the new Duchess of York winking at friends as she walked down the aisle.
The BBC’s relaxed no-gimmicks coverage beat ITV’s aerial shots and holier-than-thou commentary from Sir Alastair Burnet, chief knee-bender to the royals.
Andrew and Sarah had two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, but separated in 1992 when courtiers worst fears were realised and photographs surfaced in a newspaper of Fergie disporting herself in the South of France with John Bryan, her “financial advisor”, who appeared to be sucking her toes.
It was that episode which made divorce inevitable, and sank the Royal Family’s reputation to a new low.