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Posts Tagged ‘Royal Ascot’

"My Fair Lady" soundtrack poster. Miss Hepburn wears the Ascot ensemble.

“My Fair Lady” soundtrack poster

On June 19, 2011,the Ascot dress and hat worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 Academy Award-winning film, “My Fair Lady,” sold at auction for an incredible $3.7 million. The ensemble was designed by Cecil Beaton and was sold from the Debbie Reynolds Collection. Originally, the actress Debbie Reynolds paid $100,000 for the outfit.

Worn by Miss Hepburn in the most memorable scene in the film, it is perhaps the most famous garment ever designed for a motion picture and, most assuredly, Mr. Beaton’s magnum opus.

Art designer Cecil Beaton checks Audrey Hepburn's Ascot costume on the set of "My Fair Lady," 1963

Art designer Cecil Beaton checks Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot costume on the set of “My Fair Lady,” 1963

 

Cecil Beaton's sketch for Audrey Hepburn's Ascot costume, "My Fair Lady" (1964)

Cecil Beaton’s sketch for Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot costume, “My Fair Lady” (1964)

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle at the Royal Ascot horse races. In the film, Eliza is every inch a refined English lady until the horserace tightens. Then she erupts in a stream of Cockney speech that threatens to blow her cover as a Covent Garden flower girl.

For more on Audrey Hepburn, click here.

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Sarah Ferguson watches polo at Windsor with Princess Diana, in 1985, the year before she married into the British Royal Family and became the Duchess of York

Sarah Ferguson –  “Fergie” –  and Princess Diana (1961-1997) knew each other for six years before Fergie married Prince Andrew in 1986 and became a member of the Royal Family. The two women had first met on the polo circuit, as Diana’s husband Prince Charles was an avid player and Fergie’s father, Sir Ronald Ferguson, was the Prince’s polo manager.

Soon after meeting, Diana and Fergie (b. 1959) became fast friends. The timid and reserved Diana was intoxicated by Fergie’s loud and breezy energy:

“The two girls would burn up the telephone wires trading gossip and irreverent royal tidbits they could share with no one else.” (1)

Since Diana’s 1981 wedding to Charles, she had been starved of fun. Diana thought about how lovely it would be to have Fergie as a mate in the Royal Family. In June of 1985, Diana decided to play royal matchmaker and make it happen. She wangled an invitation for Fergie to not only attend the Queen’s Ascot Week house party at Windsor Castle , but managed also to get the boisterous redhead seated next to the Queen’s second son, the 25-year-old Prince Andrew, a very eligible bachelor and second in line for the throne.

Sarah, the Duchess of York ("Fergie") and Diana, Princess of Wales, 1987

Within an hour of meeting Fergie, Andrew was “chatting her up” and “flirtatiously coaxing a merry-eyed Ms. Ferguson to eat every one of the chocolate profiteroles [cream puffs] on her plate.” (1) A year later, Fergie and Andrew were married at Westminster Abbey as the Duke and Duchess of York. Di had gotten her ally in the family.

This commemorative stamp was issued in Great Britain in 1986 to commemorate the Royal Wedding of Prince Andrew to Miss Sarah Ferguson. They became the Duke and Duchess of York.

 
Encouraged by Fergie’s wildness, Diana began to loosen up publicly. She became a bit of a royal daredevil. Memorably, in June 1987, she and Fergie were photographed at Royal Ascot poking Fergie’s old school friend Lulu in the behind with their umbrellas, called “brollies” in England.  (2) 

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York (l), and Princess Diana (r) attend the Royal Ascot, June 1987.

The Ascot Umbrella Caper – dubbed “the Brolly Folly” – drew public scorn. Woodrow Wyatt recorded in his memoirs that his wife saw Diana at Ascot

fooling about in the most childish manner, pulling people’s hair and tweaking them.”

The Sun reported the incident, referring to Fergie and Diana caustically as “silly, simpering girls.” It was the first of many desperate attempts Diana and Fergie made to “unstiffen” royal protocol. 

Over time, the fallout from the bad press would affect Diana and Fergie differently. Diana would weather the public criticism better than Fergie. With Diana’s tragic death, charity work, and sad marriage, the public has been more forgiving of her wild days. The late Princess Diana is lovingly remembered today as the People’s Princess.

Fergie, however, at age 50, continues to court disaster with her impetuous ways and money woes. Matter of fact, with the latest bribery scandal and “Oprah” TV appearance, the Duchess of York is being referred to in the press as the Duchess of Disaster. 

 
 
 

An image made from video shows the Duchess of York apparently selling access to ex-husband Prince Andrew for 500,000 British pounds to an undercover reporter from the UK tabloid, "News of the World." (foxnews.com_May 24, 2010)

(1) Brown, Tina. The Diana Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

(2) “Births, Deaths, & Marriages.” Thirty Years of Majesty. Vol. 31, No. 5.

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