The couple tied the knot in 1986 at Westminster Abbey in London. As she adjusted to her responsibilities as the Duchess of York, the Teenage Cancer Trust patron looked to Princess Diana for guidance, she recalled in her 1996 memoir, My Story.
“‘Just keep smiling,’ Diana whispered,” Ferguson wrote. “And I did, as I would for long years to come. I always felt safe in mimicking Diana.”
Things took a turn for the Her Heart for a Compass author and Andrew, who announced their separation in March 1992. “I didn’t want a divorce but had to because of circumstance,” she told Harper’s Bazaar 15 years later, calling her split from Andrew “the most painful time of my life.”
The duo’s divorce was finalized in May 1996, and though she’s no longer a senior member of the British royal family, she’s kept in touch with Queen Elizabeth II over the years. “The queen and I always got on well, still do; I uphold everything Her Majesty represents, has given up her life for,” Ferguson told Harper’s Bazaar in 2007. “It’s her duty. … I believe Her Majesty’s done the best job she can. For me, she’s been extraordinary.”
After her divorce — and despite the negative press she received because of it — the producer worked hard to forge her own path. She penned children’s books, became a Today correspondent and landed a Weight Watchers deal, in addition to her other notable charity work. In June 2011, she got vulnerable about her struggles in a six-episode series titled Finding Sarah, which featured her trek through Canada’s Arctic region.
Two months prior, Ferguson went on a solo trip to Thailand after she wasn’t invited to her nephew Prince William’s wedding to Duchess Kate. “I really love the feeling that sort of Diana and I both weren’t there,” she said in an interview in May 2011. “But I’m here to say how proud she would have been and Kate looked utterly beautiful.”
A decade after the snub, the writer told Town & Country that being left out of the family’s big day made her feel like she wasn’t “worthy.” While she didn’t get to share the Cambridges’ special moment, she attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s May 2018 wedding.
“I can’t thank them enough for doing that because it was nerve-wracking. … I sort of looked around like, ‘Are they doing that for me?’” she told Good Morning Britain in November 2018, recalling the cheers from fans outside the ceremony. “Then someone went ‘Fergie,’ and it was the old Fergie back.”
Scroll down for a look back at the duchess’ ups and downs as part of the royal family: