My very first memory of Royalty and what it represented to me, was when I was 7 years old watching the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson being played out on TV in a glittering Cinderella style ceremony that made me stop dead in my tracks and question, “do fairy tales really come true?”
As little girls, we were told these stories over and over at bedtime almost as if our parents were trying to stamp a subliminal message onto our brains, that we may also dream of becoming a Princess one day.
Watching the bride walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey in the most glorious 80’s ensemble of ivory silk stopped seven year old me in my tracks. Designed by Lindka Cierach, she captured the best (and possibly the worst) of 80’s fashion in a romantic style gown that turned Sarah, daughter of a Major, into the newest Duchess on the block. I don’t think I saw a bride for years after that whose wedding dress wasn’t in some way fashioned in the style of that gown.
Entwined in the 17-foot long train were the embroidered initials of the couple, and the Disney princess within me was hooked. Full, real life, girl marries Prince and lives happily ever after moment.
Well. Like all good Disney films, no one ever gets to that part of the movie without a small helping of rags to riches, a fall from grace and a modicum of personal tragedy.
Sarah, Duchess of York, as she is now known, has always fascinated me. Her complex relationship with her estranged in-laws and the ongoing battle to stay in the periphery of The Royal Family is a story that surely must go down in history as one of the strangest royal romances of all time.
As a divorcee myself, I can wholeheartedly say, I am in awe of the way in which Andrew and Sarah have preserved an amicable and friendly relationship while co-parenting two daughters. Throughout their childhood and their teens, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a more ideal scenario of split parenthood.
I could wax lyrical here about the many ugly indiscretions both parties have subjected each other to over the years, but that would require a book rather than a blog and be frank, that is something that has been well documented in the past. Indeed, she is far from perfect and neither is he, and yet somehow, as a unit, they seem to work. I’m truly baffled and yet full of admiration for the sheer devotion they clearly have for each other and their little York family.
At the height of the divorce scandal, Her Majesty The Queen originally cast Sarah out by stripping her unceremoniously of her HRH status and excluding her very publicly from many family events. And rightly so. A mother always protects her cub. And it has always been mooted around royal circles that the Queen favours her second son, showing more motherly tendencies towards him than perhaps some of the other children. But yet as the years have rolled by, Sarah has managed to stay in some form or another on the edge and from what I have seen more recently, on her way straight back into the Royal fold.
The depth of curtsy and excited waves to Her Majesty this week at Royal Ascot, are not, to my mind, something new. I have seen a sparkle in the Duchess of York recently that tells me that there is more to this new royal friendliness than meets the eye.
Famously, she was left off the guest list at the 2011 wedding of her nephew Prince William, but you would have had to have been living under a rock not to have seen her beaming face as she confidently strolled towards St Georges Chapel in Windsor last month to see Prince Harry marry Meghan Markle. Her smile, that day, was surely seen on the moon!
Now. I am aware that Harry does seem to have a close relationship with his cousins, the York girls, and I know that Meghan’s very good friend and fashion designer, Misha Nonoo, is in fact extremely good friends with Princess Eugenie. But the timing of this particular inclusion is not entirely lost on the romantic in my soul.
In a mere four months time, her aforementioned youngest daughter will be walking into St George’s Chapel to marry her long-term boyfriend, Jack Brooksbank and the Mother of the Bride will undoubtedly have a place at the front of the Quire that day. So edging her up the ranks at Harry’s big day, was, in my opinion, a cleverly timed and maybe tactical move on behalf of the Queen to shift Sarah back into a position where she longs to be. Because on that day in October, I would put my month’s wages on Sarah and Andrew being seated together in the Chapel. As parents of the bride. Together, with The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh watching from the row behind.
I could almost hear the Duke of Edinburgh’s gasps of despair as I wrote that last sentence. But I think The Queen has been playing a cleverly timed game of chess with her daughter in law, biding her time, and working out exactly when to call checkmate on the Duke.
The Birth of the Cambridge’s latest son has, of course, bumped Prince Andrew further down the line of succession to seventh place and subsequently out of the “permission to marry from the monarch” zone.
So as the Windsor Dynasty moves towards its matriarchal close, I have to wonder, with all the tragedy and sadness The Queen has seen throughout her reign from the Wallis Simpson Affair, her sister and Group Captain Peter Townsend, through to the death of Diana, she has regrets for the amount of unhappiness these past decisions have caused and just like all of us, wants to see her family happy and united by love.
Charles’s marriage to Camilla in 2005 made for an interesting shift in attitudes especially in The Queen’s own judgement of happily ever after. Famously accepting Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, into the family with an amusing speech using the Grand National, where she had a horse running as a fascinating analogy – welcoming her son and his bride to the “winners enclosure”, She continued, ” They have come over Beacher’s Brook and The Chair and all kinds of other terrible obstacles…..my son is home and dry with the woman he loves.”
Now for most women, being compared to a race horse may well not be considered as a fine compliment on one’s wedding day, but given The Queen’s adoration and natural affinity with horses, you cannot ignore the implied happily ever after metaphor.
Prince William followed only a few years later with his marriage to a commoner, Kate Middleton. And most recently Prince Harry’s modern and arguably, the families most influential wedding to date, to my mind all points towards a Queen taking the initiative, and turning the pages of the royal rule book, writing a new narrative where happily ever after isn’t such a fairy tale after all.