A Look Back at Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s Wedding

By Madeleine Luckel


While the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles was the matrimonial event of the eighties, it wasn’t the only British royal wedding of the decade. On July 23, 1986, 500 million people also tuned in worldwide to watch Queen Elizabeth’s second son, Prince Andrew, wed Sarah Ferguson, the daughter of Prince Charles’s former polo manager.

Why are we revisiting this now? Well, for starters, the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry, who like his uncle is the younger brother of a future King of England, are just around the corner. And what’s more, Sarah Ferguson (affectionately known as “Fergie”) and Prince Andrew’s second daughter, Princess Eugenie of York, is set to wed later this year.

Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson’s future sister-in-law, was the one who played matchmaker between Fergie and her brother-in-law. In 1985, Princess Di invited Fergie to join them at the Royal Ascot, sensing the two would hit it off, and that’s exactly what happened. Prince Andrew ultimately proposed on his 26th birthday (a far younger age than when his brother Prince Charles popped the question) and Fergie, who is four months older than Prince Andrew, said yes. Her engagement ring looked very similar to Diana’s, except in lieu of a central sapphire, there was a large ruby, a nod to Fergie’s fiery red hair.

Prince Andrew and Fergie went on to say “I do” at Westminster Abbey. Two thousand people attended the ceremony, while thousands more lined the processional route. Fergie was accompanied to the Abbey by her father, Sir Ronald Ferguson. They left Clarence House, which is now known as the official residence of Prince Charles, in a glass carriage, and arrived to the church around 11:30 A.M.—a few minutes behind schedule.

An hour and a half before the ceremony, the Queen had conferred upon her son, the groom, the title of Duke of York. (That Dukedom, when available, is traditionally given to a sovereign’s second son.) Fergie then automatically became Sarah, Duchess of York, once the wedding ceremony was complete.

Prince Edward, the groom’s then 22-year-old younger brother, served as Best Man, while Prince Charles, who at that point had already been wed to Princess Diana for five years, read a lesson during the service. A coterie of young and adorable children acted as bridesmaids and page boys for the big day. Most notable among them was undoubtedly Prince William, then 4, who wore a sailor suit for the occasion. The two children of his sister Princess Anne, Zara and Peter Phillips, participated as well, as did the bride’s younger half-siblings and Princess Diana’s niece.

During the ceremony, which was led by Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie, Fergie accidentally repeated Prince Andrew’s middle name, Christian. This however was not the only middle name-related mistake to have taken place in recent years. In her own 1981 wedding, Princess Diana reversed the order of Prince Charles’ middle names. But unlike Princess Diana, during Fergie’s wedding ceremony, the future Duchess vowed that she would obey her husband.

Cheers broke outside Westminster Abbey as the couple exchanged vows. Afterwards, the newly married couple drove to Buckingham Palace in a 1902 State Landau. They shared a traditional kiss on the balcony, as one hundred thousand people watched from below.

Afterwards, the couple attended their reception, which took place at Claridge’s Hotel and included 300 guests. Throughout the day, the bride wore a wedding gown designed by Lindka Cierach made out of ivory duchesse satin and featuring heavy beading. While the three-quarter-length puff shoulder princess sleeves, as well as the bride’s permed hair and bangs, now read as quintessential nineteen-eighties looks, other aspects of her ensemble stand the test of time. The wedding dress featured a long train, fitted bodice, and a scooped neckline (which helpfully highlighted her pendant necklace.) And, like Princess Diana and Kate Middleton, Fergie donned a tiara above her veil.

In a nod to his armed services background, Prince Andrew wore a naval lieutenant uniform. (This fact also helps contextualize Prince William’s wedding look a bit more.) After their wedding, the newlyweds honeymooned in the Azores for five days aboard the royal yacht Britannia. A sea-faring end to a wedding which was ever-so-slightly tinged with naval traditions.