Before Meghan and Kate, there was "Fergie and Di." A new special edition from People explores the wild early days, close bond, and sad falling out of the royal sisters-in-law

By Saleah Blancaflor
February 15, 2019 05:05 PM
Sarah Duchess of York and Princess Diana
Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

Long before Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton became the world’s most-watched sisters-in-law by marrying Prince Harry and Prince William, two other women held that distinction: Princess Diana and Sarah, Duchess of York.  In the 1980s when they married—then later divorced—Prince Charles and Prince Andrew respectively, “Fergie & Di” captivated royal watchers. But behind the headlines, their relationship was a complicated one in which the women appeared to be close confidantes one day and rivals the next.

Now a new People special edition, Royal Women: Inside the Windsors’ Lives Today, revisits the complex friendship between Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson, from the unique and necessary bond they formed as sisters-in-law, to their year of silence prior to Diane’s death in 1997.   Dubbed “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in the press back then, Diana and Sarah enjoyed stirring up trouble together from the start.

On the eve of Sarah and Andrew’s July 1986 wedding, the two women dressed as police officers, planning to crash Prince Andrew’s stag party but instead  hitting the posh London club Annabel’s, where they sat at the bar until patrons caught on and the pranksters fled. Traditionalists worried that the antics of these two twentysomethings—giggling at public events, sitting in one another’s lap at Ascot—could destroy the crown. “That way lies ruin for the royal family,’’ huffed Prince Charles’s biographer Penny Junor at the time.

At Center: Sarah, Duchess of York and Princess Diana, at Ascot
Ken Goff/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

 

But the monarchy survived and arguably thrived as a result of these two spirited members of the family. Today the way Diana’s daughters-in-law, Kate and Meghan, are viewed seems awfully familiar to Sarah Ferguson.  “Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt,” she wrote in a recent essay in Hello! Magazine.   In this new People issue, learn how the next generation, including Kate and Meghan and Sarah’s daughters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, are doing things their way.

 

People’s new special edition Royal Women: Inside the Windsors’ Lives Today is available now on Amazon and wherever magazines are sold.

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