Having the second royal wedding of the year wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
Five months after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made front pages around the globe, Princess Eugenie and James Brooksbank said their I-dos in the same spot—St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle—but without the pressure of having everyone looking.
Plenty of people did look, however!
Almost 4 million tuned in to watch Eugenie and Jack's Oct. 12, 2018, nuptials on ITV, the largest audience for the U.K. station in that morning time slot since Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding in 2011. Meghan and Harry's wedding had more competitors, including BBC One, to split the audience with, but just as with the first royal wedding of 2018, fans of the royal family lined the streets of Windsor to glimpse the festivities for Eugenie and Jack.
Some even laid out picnic blankets and celebrated with champagne despite the blustery October day, and all cheered the youngest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York as she made her way to the church a blushing bride-to-be and came out a newlywed.
"Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making our wedding so special and for thinking of us as we start our married life," read handwritten thank-you notes Eugenie and Jack drew up to reply to the thousands of well-wishers who sent them cards and congratulatory messages. "We are completely over-whelmed with happiness."
Eugenie's mum, Sarah Ferguson, also sent thank-yous (albeit typed ones), and in addition to agreeing that it was a most beautiful wedding, she wrote, "We are so happy to welcome Jack into our family, he is the most marvelous person and enriches Eugenie's life. They are such a devoted couple."
And with most of the news oxygen sucked up in the U.K. by either Brexit or Meghan's pregnancy, James and Eugenie enjoyed a remarkably quiet honeymoon period. But—and they could probably check with Harry and Meghan on this—they haven't missed out on anything by not being the subject of endless headlines. (Though that hasn't stopped the Channel 4 soap The Windsors from spoofing the Duchess of York and her daughters mercilessly.)
In fact, the couple didn't step out for their first public engagement as a married couple until March 2019 when they appeared at the opening of a new building at the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital in London. That's where Eugenie had surgery for scoliosis—the scars from which she proudly showed off with the low-cut back of her wedding gown—when she was 12.
Prince Andrew joined his daughter, who is now a patron of the hospital, and son-in-law in meeting patients, staff (including a nurse who helped care for Eugenie after surgery) and a robot named Pepper.
"It is such an honor to be here today, I feel like my bones and my blood are a part of this building," Eugenie said in addressing an audience at the hospital, per Hello! "I learnt on this visit today that we all share in something with this building because we care, and so to us it is very important that we are here opening this new building and that Jack, as my newly married husband on his first event has been able to come and see where I had my operation."
Eugenie also wrote on Instagram, captioning a photo of the Queen Mother, her great-grandmother, "What an honour to open the RNOH Stanmore Building today. My Great Grandmother visited the RNOH in 1931 and to follow in her footsteps is so special."
"I was so lucky to have Jack come with me, so I could show him where I had life changing surgery," she added later on Instagram Story.
Unlike her cousins who are closer in line to the throne, Eugenie—who's 10th in line, after her sister Princess Beatrice—has her own personal social media accounts. While she curates with a discerning eye, knowing that the House of Windsor is watching, she's adept at the art of the #tbt and the #fbf, never forgets an important birthday (or Valentine's Day), and, since joining in March 2018 on International Women's Day, posts regularly from all the public goings-on in her life.
When she has public goings-on, that is.
For the past few months she's been posting sparingly. In fact, following Prince Andrew's disastrous BBC Newsnight interview in mid-November about his past association with the late Jeffrey Epstein that ultimately led to him relinquishing his working-royal status and beating a retreat from public life, Eugenie didn't post anything to Instagram until Jan. 22, when she marked the two-year anniversary of her and Jack's engagement announcement.
Upon marrying into the family, Jack did not receive any royal title (or a crown insignia on the commemorative china)—and unless the ruling monarch insists on bestowing them, neither will their children—but he knew full well that he was adopting a certain lifestyle nevertheless when he proposed to Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie of York in front of a volcano in Nicaragua on New Year's Day 2018.
Eugenie's parents warmly welcomed Jack into the family and the mother of the bride-to-be—whose attendance at Harry and Meghan's wedding was a moment all in itself after being excluded from Kate and William's big day in 2011—threw herself into the planning.
"We love Jack and I am so excited to have a son, a brother and a best friend. Eugenie is one of the finest people I know and so together it will be pure harmony," Sarah, Duchess of York gushed on social media at the time.
Eugenie, who's celebrating her 30th birthday today, first met Jack through mutual friends while on holiday in Verbier in 2010, when she was 20 and he was 24 and managing a posh Mayfair nightclub.
The princess was finishing a combined degree in art history, English literature and politics at Newcastle University and in 2013 she moved to New York to work at online auction house Paddle8, the co-founder of which had gone to Eton with Prince Harry.
"We spend a lot of time on Skype," Jack told the Daily Mail a couple months after Eugenie moved across the Atlantic. "It's great. We are still very much together."
The London-born son of George and Nicola Brooksbank went to Stowe, in Buckinghamshire, for prep school but got the go-ahead from his parents to leave university in favor of going straight to work in the hospitality industry. He started off as a waiter in Chelsea before making contacts that led him to a job at the hot spot Markham Inn, frequented by the likes of Prince Harry and then-girlfriend Cressida Bonas (whom Harry met through Eugenie and Beatrice) and his pal Guy Pelly (who's now one of Prince Louis' godfathers).
Jack was managing Mahiki in Mayfair when he met Eugenie, the circles they both ran in finally conspiring to introduce them.
"There was an immediate attraction and since that meeting, they have barely been apart," a friend recalled to the Mail. Talking about why the relationship worked, the pal reflected, "She is very uncomplicated. She's a doer, a worker, as is Jack. They are very suited. Jack's always worked hard. He chose not to go to university so that he could get on the career ladder and Eugenie loved that. She didn't care at all that he was a waiter. She might be a princess, but Eugenie comes with few airs and graces."
Eugenie was known to enjoy a good night out and was one of cousin Harry's regular going-out buddies at some of London's most fashionable bars and clubs, but Jack—while certainly in the know—acknowledged that the party scene wasn't always his...well, scene.
"I leave work at 11 p.m. and head home," he said in 2013. "I'm not a big drinker. People think we party a lot but actually we [in the club business] are very quiet. For me it's a case of going home and watching a DVD."
Eugenie returned to London for good in 2015 and went to work at contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth's Mayfair location on Savile Row. And with that, she and Jack were finally able to indulge more often in their common interests, including trying new restaurants and traveling.
"I collect restaurant cards," Eugenie shared with Harper's Bazaar in 2016. "I also collect airplane tickets, by the way—since I was 16. One day, I'm going to turn them into wallpaper and paste it into my cupboard. Two of my favorite restaurants in London are Bocca di Lupo and the Palomar in Soho. For dinner, when I'm being good, I cook my own food. When I'm being really bad, it's Basilico pizza. My favorite drink is vodka soda with loads of lime. Can't beat that."
Jack eventually moved into Eugenie's apartment at St. James's Palace, one of the places Harry was happy to take Meghan in the early days of their relationship in 2016, when they were intent on keeping a low profile in London. The foursome also dined together at Soho House in Toronto that Halloween together.
When Jack got ready to propose, he found the perfect sapphire "but then didn't want to do anything till Eugenie had signed off on it," he said in their joint interview on The One Show following their Jan. 22, 2018, engagement announcement.
Eugenie and Jack married on a Friday, the ceremony followed by an afternoon reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and then a black-tie bash that night at Royal Lodge, the York family's country estate.
The party continued into the weekend with a festival-style daytime party on Saturday with different stations offering food from around the world—including pizza, hamburgers, Nicaraguan rice dishes and Swiss crepes.
Before setting off for their honeymoon (in a still-undisclosed location) that Monday, the newlyweds spent Sunday night at Royal Lodge, enjoying pizza with Beatrice and the Duke and Duchess of York—who have lived at the Berkshire estate together for the past decade despite being divorced since 1996. They also still have a chalet in Verbier, Switzerland, one of the royal family's preferred skiing spots.
"We're the happiest divorced couple in the world," Sarah Ferguson told the Daily Mail in November 2018. "We're divorced to each other, not from each other."
And the duchess had nothing but high hopes for her daughter and son-in-law's future together.
"She and Jack are just meant to be," Sarah gushed."He adores her, and now I've got a son. Jack is like Zebedee, boing-boing!" (Zebedee is a jack-in-the-box character from the 1960s-and '70s-era children's show The Magic Roundabout.)
"He will be the best consort there is, as Prince Albert was to Queen Victoria," added the proud mum and author of two books about Victoria. "I know it will be that sort of love match."
After they returned from their mystery honeymoon, Eugenie and Jack settled into married life at Ivy Cottage, one of the cozier residents at Kensington Palace. William and Kate remain a hop-skip away in the 20-room Apartment 1A, the onetime home of Princess Margaret.
Harry, who was one of Eugenie's closest mates, and Meghan started off married life there but moved to Frogmore Cottage, on the grounds of Windsor Castle, months before deciding they didn't want to live full-time in the U.K. anymore.
Eugenie was one of the first members of the royal family to meet Meghan Markle when she started dating Harry in 2016 and, having witnessed her cousin's increasingly frustrated quest for long-term love over the years, was one of the American actress' biggest champions.
"They have all become great friends," a source told the Sunday Express that November. The ladies bonded over "a shared love of art, dogs and late-night macaroni suppers. Eugenie loves Meghan to bits and believes she is perfect for Harry. They are thick as thieves and may even all go on holiday together soon. Eugenie has lots of friends who could let them stay and be discreet, away from prying eyes."
Meghan brought rescue beagle Guy with her to the U.K., while Eugenie is dog-mama to terrier Jack. "Total accident!" she told Harper's Bazaar in 2016 about her dog and then-boyfriend having the same name.
Meghan's pregnancy was announced three days after Eugenie and Jack's wedding, so with all eyes on that, after the honeymoon the newlyweds quietly settled back into their usual routine of work, relaxing at home and attending the occasional glittering royal party or black-tie gala.
They were at Prince Charles' 70th birthday party hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace along with Beatrice, Harry, Meghan, Kate, William and many more. A week later they feted the U.K. charity Street Child, which counts founding patron Sarah Ferguson as a global ambassador, at a 10th-anniversary dinner at Kensington Palace. They spent time with their families over the holidays, including Christmas Day at Sandringham with the queen and Prince Philip, and marked the first anniversary of their engagement announcement.
"What a year it's been since then and how exciting for 2019," Eugenie wrote.
That March 1, James' morning suit and Eugenie's Peter Pilotto- and Christopher De Vos-designed wedding dress went on display at Windsor Castle, as did the blush-colored Zac Posen gown the bride wore for the evening reception.
Eugenie recorded commentary for the audio tour and talked about the glittering accessories she wore that day, including the scene-stealing Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara loaned to her by Granny, the queen. The center emerald itself is almost 94 carats.
"It was the most incredible thing to wear such a piece of history that my grandmother had lent me, very proud moment," she said, "and the beautiful earrings were a gift from my husband."
As Eugenie's 29th birthday approached last year, the couple were living their best life—food, drink, friends and enjoying the local scene. They were spotted having a casual date night at members-only club Annabel's in Mayfair, where they strolled out hand-in-hand, all smiles.
It also looked as though another ski holiday was imminent, as the couple were spotted leaving sports equipment store Snow & Rock with a couple of bags.
While Eugenie mainly attended to her royal duties and other personal appearances solo (or with her mother, sister or father), James was at the Trooping of the Colour in June, an event important enough to the queen that it also marked Meghan's first public appearance after giving birth, months before she returned to official engagements.
Also in June, the couple traveled to Saint-Vivien-de-Monségur, in the southwest of France, for the wedding of Jack's younger brother (and best man at his wedding), Thomas Brooksbank, and his bride, Amy Rodgers.
And though they were no longer neighbors, media detectives suspect that the video that Harry made with Ed Sheeran for World Mental Health Day that debuted in October was shot at Ivy Cottage—considering a photograph of Eugenie and Jack sharing a kiss on their wedding day could be seen hanging on the wall behind Harry when he opened the door.
Weeks later, Eugenie's dad was in the dog house and Harry and Meghan were planning to take an extended breather from royal duties, if not necessarily the split that ultimately did take place and will be fully implemented as of March 31.
Eugenie and Jack won't be spending their young lives knowing that one day they have to assume the throne, like William and Kate. But as a granddaughter of the queen, Eugenie is still expected to comport herself accordingly, and Jack knows that any over-the-line behavior won't go unnoticed.
Most significantly, Jack and Eugenie have been free to keep their day jobs, his as U.K. brand manager for Casamigos tequila and hers as director of Hauser & Wirth. In turn, the princess has never been a senior working royal: she has patronages—including the Teenage Cancer Trust and Royal Coronet Theatre—and sometimes attends events on behalf of the family, but she doesn't get an income from the queen.
In 2016, Andrew shut down a rumor that he was trying to get his daughters to become full-timers, stating, "As a father, my wish for my daughters is for them is to be modern working young women, who happen to be members of the Royal Family, and I am delighted to see them building their careers. When they do support the Royal Family in its work this is very much appreciated by my Family and most importantly by those organizations and to those for whom their participation makes such a difference to their lives."
There has been speculation that Eugenie and Beatrice would be asked to "step up" in the wake of Harry and Meghan leaving The Firm, with one of the stipulations being that they no longer use their titles or any version of the word "royal" in their future business and charity endeavors as they go forth financially independent of the crown.
But even if that was something the sisters wanted to do, and there's been no indication it is, royal experts have largely agreed that Andrew has attracted too much negative press for his daughters to be front and center more often, at least for now.
"Beabea - wow!" her little sister wrote. "I'm so happy for you my dearest big sissy and dear Edo. It's been a long time coming and you two are meant to be." Eugenie also shared that she was the photographer who snapped the picture Bea used in her announcement.
Though it's been said that Beatrice wasn't going to have as big a wedding as her sister had anyway, for personal preferences, the issues with their father prompted a shakeup in the planning, as well as a delay in setting a date. (Now, even if she and Edoardo do tie the knot as scheduled on May 29, it's possible that it may be smaller still due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic that has world leaders advising everyone to limit the size of all gatherings to just a handful of people.)
Eugenie and Jack attended church with Beatrice and Edoardo and their father on Christmas Day with the queen, as per tradition, and though the party was relegated to the privacy of Royal Lodge and previously planned public appreciations were scrubbed from the schedule, Eugenie did not let her father's 60th birthday on Feb. 19 go unnoticed on social media.
For International Women's Day this year, the princess shared photos of women she admires, including her mother, the queen and her sister, on her Instagram Story.
"What can I say—she's the greatest and has been there for me since I was born. Beatrice has been an inspirational big sister since 1990," Eugenie captioned a photo of the two of them.
Meanwhile, Eugenie and Jack's social life has carried on fairly uninterrupted.
Last month Eugenie attended the wedding of her former schoolmate Molly Whitehall, the sister of actor-comedian Jack Whitehall, and Toby Wilkinson at St. Peter's Church in Wiltshire. She went herself (there are so many weddings, it's quite a common thing in her family) but when she's close to home she and Jack enjoy low-key nights out with friends—these days one of their favorite spots is the Fox & Pheasant in Chelsea, owned by their pals James Blunt and his wife Sofia—and catching up with each other at home or on vacation.
"She has taught me so much by her wonderful example," Eugenie wrote of her granny, the queen, on International Women's Day.
True to the example set by the monarch, despite the drama that always seems to be roiling somewhere within the family, Eugenie soldiers on.
(Originally published March 23, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT and Oct. 12, 2019.)