Andrew and Fergie to remarry? Not if Prince Philip has anything to say about it!
Are they on again? Could Andrew and Fergie then be the Burton and Taylor of the House of Windsor?
The dodgem cars were hurtling around at full speed and there were shrieks of excitement on the helter-skelter, but away from the fairground sideshows, the presence of the Duke and Duchess of York was just as much an attraction.
It was the night of Princess Beatrice’s 25th birthday party earlier this month, and the lavish outdoor entertainment at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park had been organised by the couple for their daughter’s friends.
Staff among the guests were struck by the relaxed and easy informality between Prince Andrew and his former wife.
‘It was quite noticeable,’ one retainer tells me. ‘They behaved more like an old married couple than an old divorced couple.
‘It was an eye-opener. There was quite a bit of joshing that they might as well get married again.’
So, might they? Yesterday it was reported that the couple had rekindled their love and that the Queen was ‘paving the way’ for them to remarry. It would certainly be a remarkable turn of events.
For 27 years, the story of the 53-year-old Andrew and Fergie, 54 in October, has amused and entertained the British public as much as it has embarrassed and humiliated the Royal Family.
Married for little more than five years when they split up over the Duchess’s adulterous liaisons, the couple have remained extraordinarily close.
The manner in which they have raised Beatrice and her younger sister Princess Eugenie, 23, is a testament to that closeness.
Aides of the Duke and Duchess are at pains to say that talk of remarriage is wrong. ‘They are extraordinarily good friends and they have remained a family unit in part for the sake of their children,’ says one figure close to the Duchess.
‘They like to say they are a good example of how a divorced couple can work together very well.’
Theirs, however, is no ordinary divorce.
They live together at Royal Lodge – the secluded mansion Andrew inherited on the death of the Queen Mother in 2002 – and the Prince, effectively, provides his former wife’s upkeep.
In return, Fergie has kept her head below the public parapet.
This, at least, has been the arrangement for the past three years since the Duchess squandered what remained of the public affection for her by offering an undercover tabloid reporter access to Andrew for £500,000.
In the ensuing furore, it was revealed that she was facing financial meltdown with debts of £2million.
Many were surprised when she turned to her ex-husband for help.
Wedding bells: The Duke of York and Duchess of York, pictured on their wedding day in 1986, are said to be considering getting married for a second time
Joint effort: The Duchess of York, seen with daughter Princess Eugenie and Prince Andrew have stayed close and raised their two daughters together
He cleared her debts and provided sanctuary, and she agreed to do the one thing she had so often failed to do – avoid embarrassing the Queen and the royals.
That was in 2010, and ever since the couple have lived under the same roof – if not sharing the same bed – and, by all accounts, managed pretty well.
There is, no doubt, a strong bond between them that seems to extend beyond the need for them to get along simply for the sake of their daughters.
The girls are, after all, adults leading independent lives. They have homes of their own, and next month Eugenie will be moving abroad to start a new life working for an auctioneer in New York.
Beatrice, meanwhile, is hoping to take up a new post within the financial industry shortly.
Last winter, the Duke and Duchess’s relationship took another turn when Andrew rented a chalet in the fashionable Swiss ski resort of Verbier.
This was a significant moment because he took the charming pine-clad house not just for the holidays but for the entire skiing season.
Andrew based himself in Switzerland and ‘commuted’ to engagements from the Alps.
All that time, ski-enthusiast Sarah remained at the chalet, arranging parties of visiting friends and quietly ‘keeping house’.
Some suggest that Sarah has a ‘hold’ over Andrew, but it is somehow more likely that any control is exercised by the Duke.
He has always felt guilty for his part in the marriage break-up, his negligence in being less attentive than he might have been to a new wife and mother struggling to cope with her royal life, as he devoted himself to his naval career.
Talking point: The Duke and Duchess of York, pictured together in London in 2006, have both previously spoken about getting married again
But there must, surely, be more to their relationship. Why else would staff speculate about them one day remarrying?
Could Andrew and Fergie then be the Burton and Taylor of the House of Windsor, a couple who can’t live with each other but can’t also live without one another?
With the monarchy still basking in a warm glow of public approval generated principally by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and, now, their son, Prince George, the possibility of Andrew and Sarah tying the knot for a second time might risk endangering that goodwill.
For all his derring-do in the Falklands War and his years of blameless service to the Royal Navy, the Prince is saddled with his ‘Airmiles Andy’ nickname and his boorish outbursts as a trade envoy – one of the more memorable revelations of the Wikileaks scandal.
A remarriage would certainly be an intriguing prospect.
Would it be a civil ceremony in a register office, like the one Prince Charles and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles had in 2005?
Or a Scottish affair, such as when Andrew’s sister Princess Anne married former royal equerry Tim Laurence at Ballater, in the Highlands, in 1992?
One thing is for sure: there will be no such marriage while Prince Philip is still with us. Philip has been fiercely critical of his former daughter-in-law over the years, and of his son for apparently remaining under her spell.
‘We know he would oppose any remarriage, that’s why we all say it can only happen after he has gone,’ says a friend of the couple.
‘Andrew wouldn’t want to upset his father, indeed I don’t think he would be allowed to.’
But such chilly hostility towards Fergie is not shared by all members of the Royal Family. Earlier this month, the Duchess spent a weekend at Balmoral – although pointedly the Duke of Edinburgh was not there – as a guest of the Queen.
According to those close to Sarah, the stay was simply recognition of the fact that she has, as one close chum puts it, ‘kept her nose clean’ for the past three years.
‘She has been accepted again as part of the family.’
Royal seal of approval: Prince Philip has been fiercely critical of his former daughter-in-law. The Queen invited Fergie to come to Balmoral just a few weeks ago in what was seen as a significant gesture
Although she was not invited to Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011, and it is highly unlikely that she will be a guest at Prince George’s christening service, there is another royal wedding – admittedly still on the distant horizon – which could see Fergie back in the fold. Her daughter Beatrice’s.
There is no official engagement between the Princess and her long-standing boyfriend Dave Clark, of course, but many believe their marriage is a question of when, not if.
Clark, 30, who works for Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson’s empire, has been around for so long that many thought they were already engaged and merely waiting for a break in the busy royal itinerary to accommodate another wedding.
As the mother of the bride, the Duchess would have to be there. And she could not be consigned to some distant pew – she would have to take her seat alongside the royals.
After all the years of upheaval, Prince Andrew has remained steadfastly loyal to Fergie.
Girlfriends have come and gone, but he’s always ended up going back to his ex-wife. She is no longer the rackety figure of fun she once was, spending her time working on children’s books and developing a film idea on the life of Prince Albert.
So how about a double wedding? Beatrice and her beau, and Andrew and Fergie. Now that would be a royal first – and every bit as exciting as the rollercoaster at that birthday fairground extravaganza.