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Fergie Quoted as Saying Divorce ‘Just A Piece Of Paper’

April 17, 1996

LONDON (AP) _ In a stark London courtroom today, a judge granted Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York _ and 28 other couples _ the first stage of a divorce.

It was a far cry from the pomp and ceremony that accompanied the elaborate wedding for Andrew and the former Sarah Ferguson in historic Westminster Abbey in 1986.

The judge rubber-stamped the petition by the couple, listed as ``HRH The Duke of York v. HRH The Duchess of York″ at the divorce registry of the Family Division of the High Court.

Along with the other couples, all plain Mr. and Mrs., Queen Elizabeth II’s second son and his controversial wife were granted a ``decree nisi,″ the preliminary stage of a fast-track divorce in British courts.

The ``decree absolute″ ending the royals’ 10-year marriage is due in six weeks. Then both will be free to remarry.

The duchess and Andrew did not have to be present today. They separated in March 1992.

Senior District Judge Gerald Angel granted the Yorks their decree at the end of the list _ the couples’ names were in alphabetical order.

The proceedings followed the surprise announcement Tuesday that Andrew and Fergie, as British tabloids have dubbed her, would seek a divorce.

Fergie, however, appeared undismayed about the divorce.

``It’s just a piece of paper,″ she told the London tabloid the Daily Mail on Tuesday during a ski holiday in Switzerland with her children, Princess Beatrice, 7, and Princess Eugenie, 6.

Indeed, the divorce apparently will change little in practical terms for the couple. The statement said the children ``will continue to live with the duchess and both parents will participate fully in their upbringing.″

It also was not expected to change the amicable relationship of the couple, both 36. The two reportedly have lunch together every weekend.

After the divorce, the Daily Mail said, the duchess would live virtually in her ex-husband’s garden _ in stables near the main house at Sunninghill Park, just west of London, which are to be converted into a home this summer.

In 1986, cheering millions lined the wedding route to Westminster Abbey to get a glimpse of the couple. Millions more around the world watched the pageantry unfurl on television.

The ceremony was a dazzling spectacle of horse-drawn carriages, red-and-gold uniforms and marching bands.

Inside the abbey, where English sovereigns have been crowned for 900 years, princes and princesses from Europe and Japan witnessed the bride vow to obey her husband and heard the couple promise to be faithful until death.

Citing no sources, the Daily Mail said Andrew’s parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, persuaded him on Easter to go ahead with the divorce, despite the fact that he still loves his wife.

The British public, however, had fallen out of love with Fergie long ago.

Newspapers constantly criticized her extravagance, her sometimes plump figure, her taste in clothes, her trading on her royal status. Photographs in 1992 showing the topless duchess having her toes kissed by her American ``financial adviser″ seemed to confirm the image.

In January, with tabloids estimating Fergie’s debts in the millions, Buckingham Palace said the queen would not bail out her daughter-in-law.

``The duchess turned out to be a person of sheer unabashed vulgarity, not in keeping with Britain’s royal traditions,″ Conservative legislator Toby Jessel said Tuesday.

Andrew was the third of the queen’s four children to marry and the third to seek a divorce. Charles, 47, has admitted adultery and is embroiled is messy negotiations to divorce Princess Diana.

By contrast, the 1992 divorce and then remarriage of Princess Anne, 45, hardly raised a ripple of criticism. The youngest, Edward, 32, has a live-in girlfriend, Sophie Rhys-Jones, but turns testy when reporters raise the prospect of marriage.

Under the new arrangement, the Duchess of York will continue to use that title, although she will no longer use Her Royal Highness, the couple’s statement said.

The statement made no mention of money. But the Daily Mail said the duchess was not pursuing a large settlement because, it quoted her as saying, ``I know Andrew hasn’t got very much.″

The Daily Mail and the British national news agency Press Association said the divorce settlement would give her only $750,000. Another $2.1 million would be placed in a trust for Beatrice and Eugenie.

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