Perhaps a royal wedding is just what the nation needs to raise its spirits. A beautiful bride in white lace, a nervous groom waiting at the altar, well-wishers lining the streets with Union flags held high. A most crowd-pleasing outing for the monarchy in its full glory.
It will be some time before the next generation, led by 10-year-old Prince George, makes its way down the aisle. The next-best thing in the royal rumour mill? The Yorks.
The question haunting the most unusual royal romance in modern history has raised its head again: will Prince Andrew and his ex-wife remarry?
It has been asked on and off for at least a decade, thanks to their unusual joint living arrangements and countless cryptic declarations of affection. Until recently, it has always faced the seemingly insurmountable hurdles of the Duke’s parents, the late Queen and Prince Philip who were opposed – vehemently, in the latter’s case – to the official return of Fergie.
Now, nearly 30 years after Prince Andrew and the Duchess divorced, the path to the altar finally seems clear.
“Should the Duke and Duchess of York finally cease dithering and confirm their decision to remarry, the King has made it easier for them,” a tabloid diary column has reported.
“A source whispers that Charles has indicated to Andrew and Fergie that he would give his blessing.”
Technically the King’s permission is not required, the Duke of York having been ousted from the line of succession by the small Sussex children. But, it is claimed, it remains “important” to the Duke to have his family’s support, when he has little else nowadays. The proposed venue would be the chapel of All Saints in Windsor, where Princess Beatrice married in lockdown.
Quite what the sermon would include, charting the years between the original toe-sucking divorce and the sex abuse case, is anyone’s guess.
A palace source, when asked about the report, laughed in disbelief.
“If I had a pound for every time I’d been asked that…” a long-term royal observer said. “I don’t think it will ever happen.”
It would certainly be an unorthodox approach.
Their relationship has been the subject of fascination for years, encouraged by the Duchess who regularly confides: “We always say we are the most contented divorced couple in the world.”
In 2013, at a book festival event for children, she said of Andrew: “He’s still my handsome prince, he’ll always be my handsome prince.”
In 2021: “I kept my commitment, no matter what. People said, ‘You got divorced.’ They don’t know how I feel.”
The Yorks live in separate quarters at Royal Lodge, a 30-room Grade II-listed mansion, and take tea together daily. They are as-yet unmoved by plans to get them out, with the Duke unable to pay the large bills it requires despite his long lease, and the King said to be unwilling to fund him.
“We live in the same house but then, it’s a big house, so that’s OK,” the Duchess has said.
From the disgraces of the 1990s, where Fergie was persona non-grata and Andrew stuck by her, the tables have turned to see him condemned in the court of public opinion, and her in the supporting role. The Epstein scandal will not go away.
The Duchess, who was enjoying something of a revival with her Mills and Boon books, cheery social media presence, invitation to Sandringham Christmas and appearances on morning television sofas, has suffered real health challenges. A life-changing diagnosis of breast cancer was followed by the discovery of a malignant melanoma. One source admitted that her health struggles may well have changed her outlook when it came to marriage, but said they would “be surprised.”
The Duke remains in seclusion in Windsor, said to be struggling with his fallen status and lack of direction. He harbours hopes of a return to public life, which have been repeatedly shot down by those inside palace walls.
The King, one source said, would only give his blessing to a marriage if he had been asked directly.
Some have argued that, after several years blighted by scandal, bad choices and bad luck, a fresh start would boost their public standing.
Michael Cole, a former BBC royal correspondent, has written of Andrew: “It would be the most significant step towards restoring his reputation and finding a way back to public life, which he desperately wants.”
Others cannot understand the link.
“Just because they’ve both had problems, it’s not a reason to remarry?” one argued.
One royal aide insists that nothing had changed in the last 28 years on the marriage front, pointing to a comment made by the Duchess when asked directly about the possibility by the Telegraph three years ago. “All I can say is that we’re happy with the way we are right now,” she said.
Those close to the happily divorced couple say they have never seen any hint of romance between the pair, despite their unusual living arrangement. “They support each other but very much enjoy their independence,” one said.
“The Duchess has vehemently denied that she wants to re-enter the Firm and has said she would not consider remarrying.”
Phil Dampier, a royal commentator whose first job was reporting on the 1986 royal wedding, said: “I would never say never, but I think it’s extremely unlikely that the Duke and Duchess of York will ever remarry.
“They are best friends and he will undoubtedly have been helping her after her recent illness. She has been very supportive to him through his recent troubles.
“But I don’t think they are romantically involved, that ship sailed 30 years ago.”
Will they? Should they? Do they even want to?
No one at the palace seems to be buying a new hat yet.