On Friday, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and Prince Andrew watched their daughter Princess Eugenie marry Jack Brooksbank at St. George's Chapel in Windsor.

As the newlyweds drove away from the ceremony, the mother of the bride waved happily, offering a little "we did it!" fist pump in the couple's direction. And then she went home with her ex-husband.

Yes, there's a little bit to unpack between A and B.

The Duke and Duchess of York have been divorced for 22 years and separated four years before that, and seemingly every aspect of their split resulted in as much scandal as is humanly possible—but like a lot of famous exes, they've recently been the subject of reconciliation rumors in many of their approximately 8,000 local tabloids (and in Australia, which is a Commonwealth realm, after all). There's even been speculation that they're going to remarry, which would be a first for the British royals. And since Prince Louis' birth in April, they don't even need the queen's permission now that Andrew is only seventh in line to the throne. (Nos. 1-6 need the monarch's consent, per 1772's Royal Marriages Act.)

At this juncture, it may be that such talk is starting and stopping in the tabloid offices themselves, but it's undeniable that their post-split life together—at least in the last few years—has been pretty seamless.

Though what an insane road it took to get to this state of domestic bliss.

It helps to know that, way back when, in 1985, Andrew and the redhead who has since been popularly known as "Fergie" fell madly in love. Their fathers had played polo together and they knew each other from childhood, but a lot of living—for Andrew, joining the Royal Navy, becoming a national hero for his helicopter piloting during the Falklands War and dating one woman after another; for Fergie, secretarial school, work in PR and publishing and dating a widowed racing mogul whom she wanted to marry—had ensued in the interim.

Unlike Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who had married in 1981 and were already living a life that was all fairy tale in the front and increasingly nightmarish in the back, Sarah and Andrew had a lot in common and, as far as anyone knew, Andrew—unlike his older brother—wasn't feeling the pressure of expectations to find a bride suitable to one day be a queen. (Though there was pressure from The Firm for the 25-year-old swingin' bachelor to settle down.)

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, 1986

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As an acquaintance of the royals and Diana (her fourth cousin), Sarah was at Charles and Di's wedding, and it was the Princess of Wales—Diana had joked as a youngster that she was saving herself for her childhood playmate Andrew, who's 11 years younger than Charles—who arranged for her old friend to be seated next to Andrew at a lunch the queen hosted during Royal Ascot week.

At the time, Andrew, like older sister Princess Anne and younger brother Prince Edward, had a residence in Buckingham Palace, that journalist Tina Brown described in The Diana Chronicles as having "the impersonal quality of a Harrods showroom, or a suite in the Berkeley Hotel with better pictures."

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew

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About a month after he proposed with a "slightly unconventional" ruby and diamond ring (it was mutually decided upon that she'd have a ruby), Fergie and Andrew's engagement was announced on March 19, 1986.

Asked during their engagement interview when they both knew it was "the real thing," they looked at each other and smiled. "Again, very difficult to answer," Andrew said. "I think it was probably the end of last year, before Christmas perhaps, and then it just sort of carried on from there after Christmas at Sandringham, and beyond that."

They were "very good friends" at first, Fergie said. He made her eat chocolate profiteroles at the Royal Ascot lunch, which she didn't want, Fergie recalled, because she was "meant to be on a diet." 

"There are always humble beginnings," Andrew offered. "It's got to start somewhere."

They married at Westminster Abbey on July 23, 1986, in front of 2,000 guests and a reported 500 million watching on TV

 

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew

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During her engagement and throughout the rest of the 1980s, Fergie and Diana remained very close, the pair sharing the very unique status of being Queen Elizabeth II's daughters-in-law, married into a family that has the highest of expectations, the most particular of rules and little allowance for stepping out of line (though they've certainly built up their collective tolerance over the years).

They both fretted over their figures, an anxiety that manifested in years of weight fluctuation for Fergie—a period of weight gain prompting one tabloid to cruelly call her the "Duchess of Pork"—and Diana developing bulimia (which, since they barely discussed even their parents' respective broken marriages, they may never have talked about despite all the time spent together). 

Other than that, everything was grand at first.

 

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, 1986

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The queen enjoyed Fergie a great deal, even inviting her to dine at the palace solo on occasion when Andrew was away (which he was often, as a still-active navy man), an invitation not often extended to Diana. The Duchess of York, having a ballsy sense of humor and being outgoing, athletic and a lover of the outdoors, fit in well with the rest of the sporty clan. Unlike Diana, Fergie loved the family's annual summer trips to Balmoral in Scotland, where she and the queen would ride horses side by side. And while she was pitted against Diana in the press from day one and her appearance scrutinized down to the last red hair and freckle, the media were charmed by Fergie's less regal ways.

"At 26-years-old, I was incredibly gullible and naive," Fergie reflected years later in her autobiography My Story.

Diana both enjoyed and resented the attention paid to Fergie, as the duchess could both take the onus off the princess, but at the same time steal her spotlight. In which cases, Diana figured out a way to steal it right back. 

 

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Princess Diana

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Fergie, meanwhile, loved her husband but found herself in a fractured fairy tale. The queen gifted the couple acreage in Berkshire county, on which they built their two-story estate Sunninghill Park, but they lived at Buckingham Palace until it was finished in 1990. In fact, most royal trimmings of their lifestyle depended on her mother-in-law's generosity, as Andrew only made about £35,000 a year from the navy.

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Queen Elizabeth II

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And by 1990, Diana and the rest of the royals' so-called patience with Fergie's antics—which included trying to offset her husband's relative frugality by doing things like accepting free merchandise, such as fur coat that drew ire from animal rights activists—was running thin. The media had long since washed their hands of optimism with regard to the Duchess of York's injection of relability, her enthusiastic showing on a reality TV competition called It's a Royal Knockout in 1987—which she did with Andrew and Princess Anne at the behest of Prince Edward—perhaps being the final straw.

But so was Fergie's patience, rattling around alone at Sunninghill and feeling shunned by the family. So she decided not to be alone.

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Princess Diana

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According to The Diana Chronices, Andrew only spent 42 nights at home in 1990 with his wife and two children, 2-year-old Beatrice and months-old Eugenie, who was born that March. The Duchess of York started socializing more, sometimes with members of the opposite sex. Taking Beatrice with her, she vacationed in Morocco with a group that included American businessman Steve Wyatt. Two years later, stolen photos from that holiday—while it would have been illegal for U.K. papers to run them—were published by Paris Match

At least Fergie and Diana reconnected over their crumbling marriages, both of which came publicly tumbling down in 1992, bookending the queen's "annus horribilis."

Andrew and Fergie had told the queen at Christmastime in 1991 that they planned to separate, but the Daily Mail got wind of it in March 1992, forcing their hand with regard to a public announcement (the queen had urged them to wait six months).

Later on, biographer Andrew Morton reportedly said that it was Diana who leaked the news, to once again take the onus off of her own troubles (which, later that year, would include the publishing of Morton's book Diana: Her True Story). The palace, however, suspected Fergie of tipping off the Mail herself.

"I had been tagged 'unsuitable' for royal life and the charge stuck," Fergie wrote in her 1996 memoir, My Story. "I was frozen out and not just in the Palace; the wind from all the doors slamming in my face might have knocked me over."

But much like Princess Anne and her ex-husband Mark Phillips, who finalized their divorce in April 1992 so she could marry Timothy Laurence later that year, Fergie and Andrew remained friends. Plus, they still had two very young children and, as their more evolved generation was more inclined to do, both wanted to be present for Princess Beatrice and Eugenie. And as their mother, Fergie was still invited to the annual August holiday at Balmoral.

In fact, the family was at Balmoral when the Mirror published a cover story and inside spread of photos of Fergie taken at a villa in the South of France with American financial manager John Bryan. Photos showed the duchess sunbathing topless and Bryan, infamously, nuzzling her foot—which forever after became the great toe-sucking scandal of 1992.

"I remember seeing it and just going, 'oh no, Sarah,'" she recalled, shaking her head, in a CNN interview in 2001. "And my best friend in the world, you remember Caroline, she said to me, 'Now you need help, Sarah...This is crazy, what is happening here?'" I think it's an extraordinary tale, one which every day I work at, and every day I try and see how and why I did those things."

The queen, going through the morning papers, told her to leave, and off she went back to London with Beatrice and Eugenie in tow. No pun intended.

Prince Harry, Princess Eugenie, Sarah Ferguson, Princess Diana

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Fergie said at a 60 Minutes With Sarah Ferguson event in 2016 that friends were worried at the time that she might kill herself and that she was indeed devastated by her failed marriage. "These two here are the reason I got out," she said, referring to Beatrice and Eugenie sitting next to her. "It was because of my two girls I decided that it was important to get on."

According to Tina Brown, Fergie eventually came to believe that Diana—still her confidante at the time—had tipped off the paparazzi to her location to again deflect from her own mounting pile of scandals. (Despite their mid-'90s reconciliation, they didn't talk in the year leading up to Diana's death in 1997, reportedly because she was angry at Fergie for claiming in My Story that she developed a wart after borrowing the princess' shoes.)

In November 1992, Prince Andrew was with the queen at her beloved Windsor Castle when a fire tore through 100 rooms (of 1,000) and caused tens of millions of dollars, pounds, et al., in damage, another sort of devastation for the royal family that year. 

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, 1994

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Andrew and Fergie survived their various embarrassments and continued on as co-parents and seemingly still very dear friends. They spent so much time together that one might even say that they hadn't separated, they had "consciously uncoupled."

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, 1995

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It wasn't until 1996 that they, like Charles and Diana, settled their divorce. Fergie received £600,000 from the queen to buy a house, which she was instructed to put in her children's names, and support payments amounting to a reported £15,000 a year. Andrew paid for Beatrice and Eugenie's schooling and the queen set up a £1.4 million pound trust for the girls. 

Still the Duchess of York but no longer Her Royal Highness, Fergie set about earning a living, and she didn't do it quietly. She scandalized Britain, but Americans liked what she was bringing to the table, which was most notably a successful weight-loss story that resulted in her becoming a Weight Watchers spokeswoman for the next 10 years. She also penned more books in her Budgie series for children, about a little helicopter, which was also turned into an animated series, and wrote a history of Queen Victoria.

Her treatment at the hands of her ex's family continued to sting, though (and no one could get enough of hearing all about it). "It was so bad that I believed I was this worthless human being. I thought maybe Prince Philip was right," Fergie said in recalling her father-in-law's reaction to—and enduring grudge from—those photos in 1992. Philip had also really liked his daughter-in-law back in the day, so the disappointment was real.

When Andrew turned 40 in 2000, the queen, Philip, Charles and Edward all skipped the party, supposedly to avoid Fergie.

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, 2000

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But Andrew persisted in remaining close to his ex-wife and, though Prince Philip reportedly avoided the duchess like the plague, he once again secured her invitations to the family summer holiday at Balmoral in 2005 and 2008, her first time there since 1992.

And in 2008, she moved in with Andrew and their daughters at Royal Lodge, the duke's official country residence since 2004.

Fergie once quipped that she and Andrew were "the happiest divorced couple in the world."

The affectionate co-parents continued to go on family holidays with Beatrice and Eugenie and in early 2010, they skied in Verbier, Switzerland, with the girls and attended a dinner hosted by racing-manager millionaire Paddy McNally—notable because McNally was the man Fergie dated for two years and had wanted to marry before Andrew. (The amount of bygones being bygones among these people is truly extraordinary.)

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, 2002

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"I would like to think that lessons have been learned because, my goodness, some ­lessons did need learning," Andrew said about the gradual thawing of the ice between his parents and ex-wife. "But memories sometimes can be quite short so it's a challenge."

Risking his parents' ire, Andrew invited Fergie to his 50th birthday party that February, and she and the girls threw him a more intimate celebration at St. James' Palace the next day as well. 

Meanwhile, Fergie had embarked on numerous philanthropic ventures and kept churning out books, including her bestselling My Story, dieting and lifestyle tomes and a new children's series, but her finances never seemed to stabilize. So it was in a period of need for capital, she recalled, when she agreed to meet in 2010 with whom she'd been told was an Indian business tycoon who wanted to invest in her projects.

The man turned out to be News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood, and a surreptitious taping of their conversation—in which she seemed to be trading access to her ex-husband in exchange for £500,000, $40,000 of which she was given in cash on the spot after telling Mahmood she didn't "have a pot to piss in"—was subsequently published.

"The Duke of York [who had been a U.K. trade and international business envoy since 2001] categorically denies any knowledge of any meeting or conversation between the Duchess of York and the News of the World journalist," the palace said in a terse statement following the NOTW bombshell. (The tabloid reported that Andrew wasn't in on the alleged deal.)

"I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused," Fergie said in an apologetic statement. "It is true that my financial situation is under stress, however, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment and I am very sorry that this has happened." She concurred that Andrew "was not aware or involved in any of the discussions that occurred...The duke has made a significant contribution to his business role over the last 10 years and has always acted with complete integrity."

Fergie later insisted she would never have done such a thing and that the tape was edited to mislead, but the extent of the ensuing scandal (even an interview with Oprah Winfrey didn't help) cost her an invitation to Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding in 2011 and earned her nothing but more scorn from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. 

In her 2011 book Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself, Fergie agreed with the assessment of her story as "vacuous and convoluted"—because it was. "My business and personal affairs were indeed vacuous and convoluted," she wrote, "because for years I'd been weaving elaborate webs, trying to please people and avoid my deepest fears. Now, rejection, failure, shame and abandonment had all come home to roost."

Oprah, however, gave Fergie an OWN docu-series, the six-part Finding Sarah, which included snippets of counseling sessions with Dr. Phil McGraw. She had concluded that when she first married Andrew, and for the duration of their marriage, she didn't think she deserved a happily-ever-after life, so she made sure that it would fail, taking blatant steps to sabotage it.

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew

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But Andrew, though he couldn't finagle her a wedding invite, stood by Fergie in the long run. She offered to move out but was allowed to stay on at Royal Lodge and remains in residence there to this day when she's not in London, New York or otherwise on the go.

"When Andrew went [to Will and Kate's wedding] with the girls," she told Winfrey, "we were talking all morning, and he was saying, 'It's OK. Just remember, we had such a good day. Our wedding was so perfect'...Because we're such a unit together, he made me feel very part of the day on April the 29th."

No stranger to controversy himself, Andrew stepped down from his unsalaried role as trade and business envoy in the summer of 2011 leaving a trail of headlines behind him, including questions about the apparent lavishness of some of the trips he took while ostensibly on government business, and therefore its dime.

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew

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Fergie returned the unflagging support a few years later when Andrew was alleged to be linked to an underage sex ring masterminded by American billionaire businessman Jeffrey Epstein, who starting in 2008 served 13 months of an 18-month sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14. Andrew, who had distanced himself from Epstein years prio, was named in a 2014 civil lawsuit as one of the men a Jane Doe plaintiff was forced to have sex with, and in three locations, including London. (The plaintiffs were suing the federal government over Epstein's plea deal; neither he nor Andrew was a defendant.)

The palace flatly denied that Andrew was in any way involved or had knowledge of such activities, calling the allegations "false and without any foundation." The accuser's father then told The Sun that his daughter had been introduced to the queen; the palace said there was no record of any such meeting.

"The York family is a tight unit," Fergie told reporters who caught up with her on vacation in Verbier. "We've always been a tight unit. He is the greatest man there is. It was the finest moment of my life in 1986 when I married him. He is a great man, the best in the world." (Epstein, who had been a friend of Andrew's, had also once given Fergie £15,000 to help her pay off debts. She told the Evening Standard in 2011 it was a "terrible, terrible error of judgment" to accept money from him.)

In a Today show appearance in January 2015, Fergie called her ex-husband a "humongously good man." She explained, "I will have not one word said about him on any level, any level. I want to stand by him, because I know what it feels like to have salacious lies made up about you. I won't stand by and let his character be defamed to this level."

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, Princess Beatrice

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Whether or not he had ever questioned his loyalty to his ex-wife at any time over the years, when Philip was giving her the cold shoulder or the tabloids were raking her over the coals, Andrew proved to be a lucky man when the headlines turned on him.

"He'll always be my handsome prince," Fergie said glowingly in 2013 at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. "We really believe in being good parents for our girls."

It's even Instagram official, with the duchess, who's celebrating her 59th birthday today, marking her ex's 58th earlier this year. "Happy birthday to the best man, father, friend… Prince Andrew. Feb 19… ooh the best looking @hrhthedukeofyork #birthday," she cheekily wrote.

 

Duchess Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew, Princess Eugenie, Royal Wedding

REX/Shutterstock

For the last few years Fergie has gone with Andrew to Royal Ascot, and this year she was spotted smiling and chatting with the queen in the royal box. Even Philip, who once supposedly vowed he'd never be in the same room with her again, has been in the same room at least twice this year—at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in May, the groom having insisted that his aunt get an invitation, and on Friday at Eugenie's wedding.

Just when you think she might be out, they let her back in.

Princess Eugenie Royal Wedding, Prince William, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton, Queen Elizabeth, Meghan Markle, Sarah Ferguson

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Asked at the Cheltenham festival in 2013 if getting back together was in the cards, Fergie said, "He's still my handsome prince, he'll always be my handsome prince. It's lovely that we are such a family and the story has a happy ending all the time."

She added, "In our every day, we really respect each other and we honor each other and it's just lovely to have that sense of integrity, to what we believe is right—to what is good and compassionate and love and kindness. And that's the way we are."

In 2014, Andrew, in that warm House of Windsor way of his, called their ongoing relationship "just part of life's rich tapestry. If you've been married to somebody, I just see it as illogical not to be a friend at the end of the day, regardless of what your set of circumstances are. But it's meant a whole heap to the family."

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