The Return of Fergie: Prince Andrew's Ex Had Prime Seat at Queen's Funeral

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and ex-wife of Prince Andrew, took a prominent seat for the funeral of her ex-mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II, on Monday after years of being kept on the fringes of the royal family.

The duchess married Andrew in 1986 and became one of the most senior members of the royal family, being nicknamed "Fergie" by the press and becoming close friends with Princess Diana.

The marriage ended in divorce in 1996 (though Sarah retains her duchess title unless she remarries) following a number of scandals including alleged infidelity and photographs published by British tabloids of the duchess having her toes sucked by financial advisor John Bryan.

Sarah, Duchess of York Attends Queen's Funeral
Sarah "Fergie", Duchess of York photographed attending the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, September 19, 2022. And (inset) on her wedding day to Prince Andrew, July 23, 1986. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Following the divorce, relations between the duchess and her in-laws became reportedly strained, particularly with Prince Philip, though she maintained that the queen had remained a generous friend despite a number of embarrassing moments over the past three decades.

Today Sarah lives with Andrew at his home Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, formerly the home of the Queen Mother.

The duchess has stood by her ex-husband throughout his recent sexual abuse scandal which saw him lose his military patronages and working royal role, saying in a recent interview that he is a "very good and kind man," and that she would marry him again if she had to live her life over.

For a number of years, Sarah had mostly kept out of the royal spotlight after she was caught up in a tabloid sting operation in 2010 where she was recorded engaging in discussions around accepting cash from an undercover reporter for an introduction to her ex-husband.

The duchess said she regretted the interaction and later did an interview with Oprah Winfrey about her motivations for her involvement in the discussions, which stemmed from a poor financial position.

Less than a year later, Sarah was not invited to attend the 2011 wedding of her nephew-in-law, Prince William. She later told Winfrey that being excluded from the event was "so difficult" and "hard" because she was the last royal bride to marry at Westminster Abbey before Kate, now the Princess of Wales.

Sarah, Duchess of York and Princess Diana
Sarah, Duchess of York photographed with Princess Diana at Royal Ascot, June 1987. The duchess said it was "difficult" not to receive an invitation to the wedding of her nephew-in-law Prince William in 2011. Ken Goff/Getty Images

In 2018, the duchess appeared to be making a royal comeback as she received an invite to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, something she told Piers Morgan in an interview she was "honored and grateful" for.

Later that same year, she took pride of place as mother-the-bride for the wedding of her daughter, Princess Eugenie. Formal photographs taken at the event showed the duchess and her former father-in-law, Prince Philip, in the same frame for the first time since her divorce.

On the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Sarah posted a heartfelt tribute to the monarch reiterating sentiments that she had always felt close to her former mother-in-law despite the years of seperation.

"I am heartbroken by the passing of Her Majesty the Queen," she posted to Twitter.

"She leaves behind an extraordinary legacy: the most fantastic example of duty and service and steadfastness, and a constant steadying presence as our head of state for more than 70 years.

"She has given her whole life selflessly to the people of the UK & the Commonwealth.

"To me, she was the most incredible mother-in-law and friend. I will always be grateful to her for the generosity she showed me in remaining close to me even after my divorce," she continued.

"I will miss her more than words can express."

She also appeared with Andrew viewing floral tributes at Windsor in the days after the monarch's death.

Sarah, Duchess of York Attends Queen's Funeral
Sarah, Duchess of York (circled) had a prominent seat at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, September 19, 2022. Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The duchess' appearance at the state funeral for the queen was not unexpected. In 2002 she was present at the Westminster Abbey service for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, however, on that occasion she arrived and was seated at a distance from the senior royals.

For Monday's service, Sarah processed through the abbey with her children and was seated directly behind the Prince and Princess of Wales in a prominent position.

This caused some commenters to note how far the duchess had come from not being invited to the royal wedding in 2011 to today. Prominent royal commentator and Daily Mail columnist Richard Eden said on Twitter:

"It's a reflection of the remarkable rehabilitation of #PrinceAndrew's ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, that she's been given a prominent seat directly behind the Princess of Wales, in the second pew at Westminster Abbey #thequeensfuneral #royal #Fergie"

Whether the new reign of King Charles III will see his former sister-in-law included in more family events remains to be seen, however, her inclusion in the evets surrounding the death of the queen see her taking the most prominent public position since her divorce.