Ingrid Seward – biographer of Sarah Ferguson and long-time friend of Fergie’s family – gives her insider report on Beatrice and Eugenie...

We all remember when, way back in 1986, Prince Andrew became the Duke of York on his marriage to Sarah Ferguson. When his two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, were born in 1988 and 1990, they were the only of the Queen’s grandchildren to carry the title of Princess – her gift to her favourite son.

Their father – and many of the rest of us – imagined that a lifetime of royal duties awaited the girls. But the modern world intervened, and the girls – neither of whom receive any public funds – were obliged to find employment while still shouldering the responsibilities of being royal.

While still young, the girls were also faced with that most modern issue – divorced parents. Andrew was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and his duties meant that for much of their early married life, the Duke and Duchess of York were apart.

Left on her own at the mercy of the Palace hierarchy, who gave her little help, Fergie crashed from one blunder to another.

By February 1992, Fergie had had enough. She took the decision that it would be better if she and Andrew were to separate. They went to see the Queen at Sandringham. The Monarch was horrified and begged Fergie to reconsider.

But the Duchess was resolute. She explained to Her Majesty that she wasn’t really leaving Andrew – she was leaving “the Firm”.