For royal-watcher Edith Bowdidge, 82, it was the end of a very long week. Since the afternoon of March 23, when the Duchess of York checked into her $1,130-a-night maternity suite, Edith had been hovering outside London’s Portland Hospital, waiting for a glimpse of the Queen’s newest grandchild. Finally, at 11 A.M., March 30, Edith’s patience was rewarded. With a proud Prince Andrew by her side, the Duchess of York, on the mend from an emergency cesarean section, walked into the spring sunshine wearing a pink, white and black silk Yves St. Laurent suit. In her arms was the little princess with the big name—Her Royal Highness Eugenie Victoria Helena. “Nice one, Fergie,” shouted an onlooker. “Well done the duchess,” called another.
When Fergie tilted her second daughter slightly forward to show her lovely face, the crowd issued a collective “aaaah!” But her tranquil highness Eugenie, who follows the Yorks’ 20-month-old daughter Beatrice as sixth in line to the British throne, never opened her birth-blue eyes. Instead, she allowed her mother to savor the spotlight. With an exuberance that belied her difficult delivery, Fergie handed the bundled baby to Andrew and rushed forward to greet the crowd. When she reached Edith, whose vigil had been reported by Andrew, the Duchess of York leaned down and grabbed the pensioner’s hands. “I’m trembling all over,” said Bowdidge, visibly overcome.
It was the kind of reception Fergie had hoped for after a year of relentless barbs from the press—and all the more precious because of the prolonged hospital stay. Fergie had planned to have labor induced, but the 7-lb., 1½-oz. Eugenie, who was in a breech position, proved to be as stubborn as her strong-willed mother. Prince Andrew drove up from his naval base in Devonport, Devon, for the operation. “Andrew was wonderful,” the British tabloid News of the World quoted a Portland Hospital worker. “He held onto her hand and wasn’t the slightest bit squeamish.”
His was more than the usual bedside support. According to family members, Fergie wasn’t prepared for the severity of the surgery, which was performed with epidural anesthesia that left her pain-free but conscious. “She’s frail and weak,” her father, Maj. Ronald Ferguson, later told friends. “Absolutely knocked out.”
Yet emerging from the hospital, the duchess looked fit and—despite reports that she had been ordering Big Macs, pizza and fried chicken from her maternity bed—wonderfully trim. Indeed, this second-time mother stood in stunning contrast to the dowdy duchess who had left the same hospital 20 months earlier with Princess Bea: This pregnancy, Fergie kept her weight below her 154-lb. goal. The baby also had something that her big sister lacked at the tender age of 1 week—a name.
But what a name! U—WHO? demanded the Daily Star. More common in France than Britain, it is most closely associated with the French—French!—Empress Eugénie, the Spanish-born wife of Napoleon III. And in fact, the Empress Eugénie served as godmother to the Yorks’ true inspiration, Princess Victoria Eugenie (1887-1969), the favorite granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Most of the tabloids, though, are still struggling with the name. Buckingham Palace has requested the name be pronounced “U-jay-nay,” with a French inflection, but the papers have offered everything from “Ur-je-knee” to “Uzhaynee.” To stem the confusion, the Sun set up a hotline offering the Palace pronunciation and received 40,000 calls in two days.
The name game also piqued the interest of Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke’s Peerage, who declared that the name indicated a desire on the part of the Yorks “to return to Victorian values.” The comment must have amused many: In the past, Fergie has been noted for freewheeling behavior that most British citizens consider far from royal and not in the least Victorian.
As recently as March 2, she and Andrew stayed until 2 A.M. at a party for Michael Caine at a Mayfair club. And the parties didn’t stop with Eugenie’s birth: The night before she checked out of the hospital, one insider reports, Fergie sat in her room with half a dozen friends, drinking champagne. When Andrew arrived, he was reportedly so annoyed he shooed everyone out of the room.
Fergie, 30, might be forgiven such high spirits. Eugenie’s birth was not only unexpectedly traumatic, but it followed a period of intense personal turmoil and family stress. Roundly criticized last year for peddling her Budgie children’s books—and keeping a large part of the profits—and other conduct deemed unsuitable for a royal, the duchess has been trying to regain popularity by stepping up her schedule of official engagements. In addition, Fergie has spent a lot of emotional energy shoring up her extended family.
In December Fergie’s sister Jane, 32, ended her 15-year marriage to Alex Makim, 39, an Australian rancher. Jane, who is now living solo in Sydney, faces a custody battle over her children, Seamus, 9, and Ayesha, 4, and was prevented from bringing them to London when she flew in March 25 to be with Fergie.
In early February, Fergie’s mother, Susan Barrantes, 52, rushed her husband, Hector, 51, until recently a regular on the international polo circuit, from their home in Argentina to New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for treatment of cancer of the lymph glands. Although air travel during the eighth month of pregnancy is usually discouraged, Fergie flew to New York to be with her mother and stepfather.
Such trials, royal observers suggest, may eventually help mature the tempestuous redhead. Smaller signs that a royal makeover is underway include the duchess’s regular visits to the Ragdale Health and Beauty Clinic in Mayfair. Now that she’s back home in Surrey at the seven-bedroom Castlewood House—where the Yorks have lived for two years—Fergie is reportedly following fitness guru Callan Pinckney’s “callanetics” program to get back in shape.
Keenly aware of not only her new baby’s cries, but also Beatrice’s need to have Mother’s love reemphasized, Fergie for now is sticking close to home. During the next six-to-eight weeks, the duchess will handle her new handful with the help of a nurse-midwife. After that it will be up to Fergie and Bea’s nanny, Alison Wardley, 28, who will take on the care of both children. As for Andrew—no diaper duties for this prince. Last week he returned to Devonport, although he’s expected to make the three-hour drive to London every weekend before his ship sets sail in July for several weeks or longer.
Eugenie will be 6 months and Bea age 2 before they move into their new quarters at the controversial 12-bedroom Sunninghill Park mansion the Yorks are building in Windsor Great Park, Berkshire. Work delays—and the firing of more than 100 workers on charges varying from poor workmanship to bad language—have contributed to the house’s escalating costs: Originally budgeted at $3 million, it is now expected to cost $58 million.
But if the Yorks’ planned cinema, tennis courts, swimming pool, billiards room and stables are yet to be completed, the children’s quarters are moving along nicely. Beatrice’s room has been painted pink and lemon. Eugenie’s is lemon and blue—a color scheme that, until March 23, prompted speculation that the new York would be a boy.
The duchess isn’t expected to resume her royal rounds until June. But she is already getting higher marks from some Brits. “I’m glad I’ve seen her. She looks much nicer in the flesh,” said passerby Kathy Baxter, 21, after watching Fergie leave the hospital. “I don’t think I’ll believe anything bad about her in the papers again.” That would suit Fergie just fine.
—Mary H.J. Farrell, Jonathan Cooper, Terry Smith and Rosemary Thorpe-Tracey in London