She was quite unlike some of the other women he had dated—independent, charismatic (and unwilling to give the details of their romance to the newspapers)—and as a woman with live-in lovers in her past, hers was not the sort of résumé likely to recommend her for membership in the Windsors' private club. Yet when Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Sarah Ferguson, daughter of Prince Charles's polo manager, to Prince Andrew, fourth in line to the throne, the British immediately embraced this effervescent, fiery redhead as the perfect choice to tame their "randy" 26-year-old Prince. "Unforgettable!" beamed the Daily Mirror the day after the July 23 wedding at Westminster Abbey, and so her public since then has found her to be: She plunges into each royal assignment with gusto, turning her walkabouts into anything-goes encounters with her admirers. When critics in the press dare take aim at her girth or somewhat lackluster taste in clothes, she shoots back with, "I dress for Andrew, and only Andrew." Still, along the way, Sarah, 27, has become more stylish and has even lost 21 pounds. She has also quit smoking and taken up flying, endeavors that have brought cheers from the royal clan. Given her new wealth, dashing husband, agreeable in-laws and the best social status on earth, the Duchess of York would seem to be living out every schoolgirl's favorite fairy tale.
Or is she? To find out, PEOPLE asked students ages 9 to 13 at Roedean, an exclusive girls' boarding school on the southern coast of England, how they would like to live such a seemingly glamorous life. Surprisingly, as these excerpts from their essays reveal, becoming a royal—even one as popular as the Duchess—isn't everybody's cup of tea.
I would not like to be the Duchess of York because I would have no privacy and would not be able to go for a walk without everyone staring at me. There is also a risk of being killed. I could also get a bad image.
—Erika Jane, 10
If her shoe comes off by mistake, it is on television and in all the newspapers. Also she must be on her best behavior all the time; she must not fidget on very special occasions and when she is being filmed. The Duchess cannot shout and laugh too loudly and spill too much food on the table. She must always look nice, and people would not be pleased if she did not smile when they gave her a bouquet of flowers, even if she had a headache.
I would like to get the wedding presents that she did and have the Queen as a mother-in-law.... Going around making people happy just because they have shaken my hand must be marvelous.
You could never have complete privacy, which would be worse than boarding school.... I feel I would be happier as a plain, insignificant person. I hope she likes being the Duchess of York.
She cannot just go shopping whenever she likes, which I think must be awful.
I would never be able to go to Isle au Haut in Maine, where my family went last summer. There are so many mosquitoes there that when I came back to go to some fancy ball, everyone would be able to see my mosquito bites.
I think I would like to be the Duchess of York, because I could have dogs, cats and horses as pets and because the life would fit me perfectly. Also, I think Prince Andrew is attractive.
There's the problem of Andrew. He isn't the most gorgeous guy in the world....
One day she is a fashion queen, the next she is fat. She has nothing to aim for anymore. All of life's cares and worries are behind her and she lives the life of luxury.
No! To be the Duchess of York would be awful. The first thing is you have to dress to everyone's taste and have to be the perfect woman for everyone—young, old, modern or eccentric, with an ever-ready smile.... If you didn't get on with the royal family, you could be sure, somehow, it would get in the papers. (Remember that bush that seemed to move in the gardens?)
I would like to be the Duchess of York because you are very well-known and famous, and at school I'm not that well-known or famous like some of my friends.
It must be difficult with Andrew being away most of the time in the Navy. It sounds strange, but at times it must be lonely, no really close person to confide in.
It would be nice because of riches and power and the fact that I could order people and go to balls in beautiful robes. I'd like to be the Duchess because the good things are really good.
She may enjoy being made up by professionals, but I personally would get annoyed if they were rushing around in a panic because they had made a tiny mistake such as painting my lips the wrong color.
She would be able to travel a lot which would be brilliant, but if I had a family I would miss them. Princess Diana missed Prince William
's first birthday, which I would hate.
I would be on television and have most of the things I would wish for. The Duchess of York has great gardens to take long walks in. And most important of all, I would like to have crowds of people waving to me and to have lots of fans.... I would like to be the Duchess of York and be the most important person wherever I went.
I would be famous for the sole reason that I was married to Prince Andrew. I would like everyone to know about me because I was talented at something.... Some people call royalty a career; well I'd love to know the reason why. Royalty, to my point of view, consists of opening bazaars and buildings, accompanying your husband to (boring) parties, which you probably don't want to go to anyway, and smiling and looking pleased to be there.
I would like to be the Duchess of York because she wears nice clothes that look good on her and has no [pimples].
I must admit I would like to be carried to a castle far away. But everyone has dreams. Who knows, they might come true one day!