Tim Graham, Getty Images


It was yet another modern royal marriage that lacked a fairy-tale ending, but the 1986 wedding of Sarah Ferguson and Britain's Prince Andrew began as a love match.

The royal couple, both 26, married in a lavish July 23 ceremony at Westminster Abbey before a crowd of 2,000 that included American first lady Nancy Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

While the ebullient Ferguson was technically a commoner, she does boast blue-blood ancestry traced back to King James and strong connections to Kensington Palace. Her father, the late Maj. Ronald Ferguson, was a close friend and polo manager to heir to the throne Prince Charles. Her "very, very good friend," the late Princess Diana, played a hand in matchmaking the couple, casual acquaintances since childhood.

In the first sign that theirs was a true romance, Prince Andrew was said to have proposed to his bride in the same Scottish castle where the couple shared their first kiss. At the time of their engagement, People reported that the prince, who had a reputation as a lady's man, "was willing to forsake his randy reputation for love."

Their nuptials gave them the official title of the Duke and Duchess of York, as Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the ducal title on her second son just hours before their 45-minute ceremony.

The coupling of the fiery redheaded commoner to the sovereign's third child had all the pomp of a state occasion, but the beaming couple made a special effort to make the wedding their intimate own.

Those personal details began with Ferguson's engagement ring, a Burmese ruby that Prince Andrew was said to have chosen to reflect his bride's hair.

Jane Fincher, Alamy

The duchess, in turn, had her puff-sleeve, scoop-neck ivory duchess satin Lindka Cierach gown embellished with details that spoke to their union. A large bugle-bead-embellished A -- for "Andrew" -- was monogrammed on the bottom of her 17-foot train, which was also embroidered with her personal coat of arms, a bumble bee, an anchor (in honor of her husband's naval affiliation) and a rose. The train flowed from beneath a large, dramatic bow on the gown's back.

While the pouf of the duchess' dress exhibited some of the same 1980s excess that distinguished Princess Diana's 1981 David and Elizabeth Emanuel wedding frock, this gown did not suffer the same critical panning as her sister-in-law's.

Ferguson's veil was attached to a crown of gardenias as she entered the abbey, but was replaced by a gift from the queen, a jeweled tiara, toward the end of the service to denote her transition to royalty.

The couple's attendants included a sweet procession of young bridesmaids and pages led by the queen's grandchildren and the couple's niece and nephew, Zara Phillips (daughter of Princess Anne and her ex-husband, Capt. Mark Phillips) and Prince William. The girls wore Victorian-inspired peach dresses embellished with bows, and the boys, miniature blue-and-white sailor suits.

Prince Edward served as his brother's best man or "supporter." Prince Charles made a reading during the ceremony.

BBC commentators noted an otherwise well-behaved 4-year-old Prince William looked "cross" as he was compelled to hold his cousin Zara's hand during the 4-minute procession down the Anglican church's long aisle.

Tim Graham, Getty Images



After the ceremony, the couple rode in an open-top 1902 state landau to Buckingham Palace, where they thrilled cheering crowds with a balcony kiss. They were then feted at a reception for 300.

Though the couple were said to be deeply in love and had two daughters, the marriage was soon stressed.

In an interview years later, the duchess would admit the union began to suffer within a week of the wedding because of Prince Andrew's obligations as a career navy helicopter pilot. She would also concede she was ill-prepared for royal duties, expectations and scrutiny. During a low point in her marriage, she was brutalized by the British press for ballooning to 220 pounds and dubbed the "Duchess of Pork."

The couple divorced in 1996, but within a year, they were sharing a home again, something they said was for the sake of their daughters, princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

Although they have endured a number of embarrassing post-split controversies, including the bankrupt duchess trying to sell access to her ex-husband, they have remained close.

For more details on Prince William and Kate Middleton's upcoming wedding, visit www.royalwedding.aol.com.