February 08, 1988 12:00 PM

When, after several weeks of rumor, the announcement finally came from Buckingham Palace, it was elegantly simple: “The Duke and Duchess of York are very pleased to announce that the Duchess of York is expecting a baby in August.” British oddsmakers immediately declared that Fergie is slightly favored to give birth to a boy, and that the odds against twins are 66-1 (there’s no history of twins in either Fergie’s or the royal family). So far, there is no line on whether the baby will be a royal redhead like Mum.

And how were Prince Andrew and the former Sarah Ferguson reacting to her pregnancy? No surprise there. “They are both extremely happy,” said Maj. Ronald Ferguson, the soon-to-be granddad. “They have both been looking forward to starting a family.” The baby, who will assume the title of Prince or Princess (first name) of York, will probably bring to an end the commuter marriage Andrew and Fergie have had since their wedding in July 1986. As a naval officer, Andrew now spends weekdays as a helicopter-weapons-training pilot at a base in Portland, Dorset, while the Duchess parks herself at their Buckingham Palace apartment or at Castlewood House in Surrey and works as a publisher’s assistant. Fergie plans to continue her royal duties through May, and she will join Andrew as scheduled on a visit to L.A. late this month.

Though her pregnancy was widely rumored and endlessly speculated upon during her recent three-day visit to the U.S. for a charity benefit, Fergie wasn’t giving away any secrets. There was no time for napping in her schedule, her belted waist seemed trimmer than ever, and at a lunch in Connecticut she had both red wine and champagne. Still, there may have been signs. “She was possibly more radiant than on her wedding day,” reports one close-up observer. And her mother and stepfather, Susan and Hector Barrantes, did fly up from a polo party in Uruguay, perhaps to offer their congratulations in person.

Whatever her condition, Fergie was a hit, though a fifth grader who met her while she was touring the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn., expressed disappointment that the Duchess wasn’t wearing “a long gown and a cone on her head.” Most Americans who encountered her seemed taken with Fergie’s lack of pretension. “She wasn’t two dimensional like a lot of the politicians and celebrities coming through here,” said George C. White, director of the O’Neill Center, an organization that encourages the theater arts. The center was one of several beneficiaries of a $1,000-a-ticket Broadway performance (sponsored in part by PEOPLE) of the Andrew Lloyd Webber hit The Phantom of the Opera, followed by a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

The evening went swimmingly, despite an attempt at disruption by an Irish Republican Army supporter who, brandishing a flag, rushed at the Duchess as she entered the Waldorf for dinner. (He was immediately arrested and jailed without bail.) Unruffled, Fergie proceeded as if nothing had happened, later sharing a table with Lloyd Webber and the Phantom himself, Michael Crawford. Conversation was animated. Any pauses, we know now, must have been pregnant ones.

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