Act two for Prince Andrew and Fergie?

Patricia Treble on a swirl of royal speculation

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson during a visit to Toronto in 1987. (CP photo)

British tabloids are in a lather about the possibility that Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah, duchess of York, are getting back together. The couple have been dropping tantalizing clues all summer that their current arrangement—Sarah Ferguson has been living for years at Andrew’s house, Royal Lodge on the Windsor estate—could be getting upgraded to include a wedding ring.

In early August Fergie went to Balmoral to visit the Queen. It was the first visit by the scandal-plagued duchess since 2008. And unlike previous post-divorce stays, she slept in the main Balmoral Castle instead of an ancillary building. “It’s just like old times,” one source told the Express. “The Duchess is being treated as if she and the Duke were still married.”

Then a month ago, a headline in the Telegraph—”Duke of York finds love again…with old flame the Duchess of York”—sent shockwaves through royal watchers. While Andrew has always been loyal to his ex-wife, even helping to pay off her debts after she was caught on camera attempting to sell access to him to an undercover reporter, the rest of the royal family largely shunned her. The article was full of unnamed sources promising that they were getting back together: Friends claim that the couple are so close that they will eventually formalise their reunion. “Mark my words, they will remarry,” said one friend. “It is only a matter of time.” Another said: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all. They are a wonderful couple together and, better still, pretty amazing parents.”

And it went on: In little-noticed comments in 2009, Prince Andrew, also 53, said he did not rule out remarrying the duchess. “Do we have to be married?” he asked. “Well, let’s put it another way, I can neither confirm nor deny the possibility. We have two great children. We still look after them.”

Now Sarah has added to the speculation. At yesterday’s Children’s Bath Literature Festival, she pointedly commented, “He’ll always be my handsome prince,” and then adding, “It’s really lovely that we are still a family and the story has a happy ending all the time.”

Yet there could be a few obstacles to such a fairy tale ending to their romance. Chiefly it’s Fergie herself, whose actions over the years have made her toxic to a royal family wanting to keep the bad old days of the 1990s firmly in the past. If it was just her “toe-sucking” behaviour from that era, then likely the Queen could forgive and forget. After all, she gave Charles permission to marry his old mistress Camilla Parker Bowles after their relationship passed from scandal-filled to boring. But Fergie never got to that second stage. As late as 2010 she was blatantly attempting to cash in on her royal connections by shopping around her relationship to Andrew.

And that has earned her a foe in Prince Philip, who reportedly can’t stand Sarah. Pointedly, she was gone from Balmoral before he drove through the gates after recovering from surgery earlier in the summer. According to the Express, he thinks she’s “pointless” and “odd” and has laid down the law—no remarriage. So all the gossip and speculation could be trial balloons to judge exactly how opposed Philip is to his son remarrying. The gossip drum beat could continue for a while.