Then & Now: Repent at leisure

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The Independent Online
21 July, 1986: the tabloid press is beside itself with joy two days before Prince Andrew weds Sarah Ferguson. As Daily Mail writer William Davies put it:

'When the Queen suggested Sarah as a suitable companion for her lonely son at Royal Ascot last year, she was putting forward not only a girl she knew she could trust, but a girl she knew Andrew would be able to relax with.

Sarah understood the intimacy of the Royal Family on and off duty, and the rules of the game. They are second nature to her. She'd grown up with them, and her father was responsible for enforcing many of them.

Within the protective walls of the Royal circle, Andrew found himself able to relax and have fun for the first time with someone who understood not just the pressures of perpetual limelight, but also how to defuse them.

Fergie had all the commonsense and sense of duty which Andrew admired in his father, and yet also the affection and protectiveness of his mother.

The fact that she was used to relationships, that she'd had serious boyfriends before and understood both the pitfalls and the pleasures simply helped everything even more. She was the perfect match . . . As his closest friend, Charles Young, described it, the ending for Andrew is . . . absolutely perfect.'

20 August, 1992: the Daily Mirror editorial thunders:

'. . . Fergie, now staying in Balmoral, has once again made our Royal Family look a laughing stock in front of the world. For Prince Andrew it is a humiliation few men could bear. His wife and her American friend must be sent packing . . .

If the Royal Family is to survive beyond the Queen's reign, it cannot afford another scandal like this.'