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The sisters-in-law-to-be remind us of another pair of royal wives . . .

By Diana Pearl and Simon Perry
February 01, 2018 09:00 AM
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With Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton set to become sisters-in-law in just a matter of months, their newfound friendship evokes memories of another iconic pair of royal pals: Princess Diana and Sarah, Duchess of York (also known as Fergie).

Of course, there are notable differences between Kate and Meghan and Sarah and Diana. Kate and Meghan —both age 36 — are a decade older than Diana and Fergie were at the start of their marriages. And former Suits star Meghan she has had a far more established career than the three other women had before their own royal marriages. But not since Diana and Fergie have two sisters-in-law in the British royal family so captured the public imagination.

Sarah and Prince Andrew knew each other throughout their childhoods, but were reintroduced by Diana and Prince Charles. They wed in 1986, five years after Diana and Charles’s wedding. Less than two years apart in age, Diana and Sarah became fast friends.

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Fergie and Diana; Kate and Meghan
| Credit: Getty(2)

“They were two women in their early 20s, really enjoying each other’s company,” veteran royals photographer Ken Goff tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “They were in high spirits.”

Case in point? The now-iconic photo Goff took of the two poking male friends with umbrellas in 1987 at Royal Ascot.

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(C, L-R) Sarah, Duchess of York and Princess Diana walking w. umbrellas poised for jousting on their way in to the Ascot races. Photo by Ken Goff/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
| Credit: Ken Goff/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

And in each other they found not only someone to laugh with, but a person to commiserate with over the difficulties of royal life. Sarah and Diana were both thrust into the spotlight and had to learn to live by a strict new set of rules within the monarchy.

“Diana and Fergie would say that it was the regimented protocol that they found difficult to deal with,” says royal biographer Ingrid Seward. “You’re used to walking through a door, and suddenly you have to wait and make sure X, Y and Z walk through first.”

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Now, Meghan will grow accustomed to the life that Diana, Fergie and Kate have learned before her.

Says Seward: “Meghan has obviously decided she’s going to be able to deal with this.”