The British royal family is no stranger to the spotlight, but on the day of a royal wedding, the pressure comes tenfold. With millions of admirers tuning in — and just as many critics waiting in the wings — it’s absolutely imperative that the ceremony go off without a hitch. But even the royal family can’t prepare for everything.
So as the newly married walked down the aisle to greet the public, the entire church held its breath as she stopped right in front of Queen Elizabeth. Then, before the entire congregation, the princess made an unexpected gesture that let everyone know how she really felt about her grandmother.
On a January day in 2018, Eugenie excitedly grasped her father’s arm. Her other hand held a beautiful bouquet, as if she needed another reminder that it was her wedding day. The princess thought back on everything that brought her to this heart-stopping moment.
Not many girls get to be born in literal royalty. But as the daughter of Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Eugenie was in that situation exactly. Granted, her chances of ever becoming queen were slim to none.
She grew up just out of reach of the crown and all its fortunes. Family members considered “working royals,” due to their proximity to the throne, received a generous allowance from the Privy Purse.
But as the daughter of the second son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Eugenie would never have access to that treasure trove. Still, she never wanted for anything. She was a perfectly happy child, though not untouched by family controversy.
When Eugenie was just six years old, Prince Andrew and Sarah divorced. This decision greatly worried her and her older sister, Beatrice, but at least they would always have each other to lean on.
Fortunately, the split was amicable as could be. The parents shared joint custody and tried to be there for all the big milestones in their girls’ lives. Eugenie called them “the best divorced couple I know,” as they stuck by her during some trying times.
By her tween years, it was clear that Eugenie was suffering from scoliosis. The curvature of her spine grew so severe that doctors had no choice: they surgically inserted metal rods into the Princess’ back.
Nevertheless, Eugenie persevered through that hardship. She glided through boarding school and enrolled in Newcastle University, where she studied art history and literature. However, her most memorable college moment occurred on the ski slopes, not the library.
During winter break in 2011, the Princess accompanied some friends to a resort in Switzerland. There, she met a young wine merchant named Jack Brooksbank. He was handsome, smart, and kind, though there was one slight problem.
In a slightly awkward twist, Eugenie had a beloved dog named Jack! However, she wasn’t going to let the name coincidence get in the way of true love. She and Jack became an official couple, right as the Princess prepared to launch her career.
Following her passion for art, the Princess worked at an auction firm in New York for a couple years after graduation. She returned in London in 2015 to join the prestigious Hauser & Wirth gallery, where she rose to a director position.
Of course, she realized her talents shouldn’t be focused solely on making money. She also took on roles in numerous charities, many of which allowed her to work with children. Those experiences really got her thinking about her own future.
In 2018, Jack and Eugenie took the next big step: engagement. The entire world was abuzz with excitement for yet another royal wedding, as was the Princess herself. However, this also meant that she had a ton of planning to do.
In fact, Eugenie came to resent her royal title as the hype built. She was lucky, however, to have her grandmother Queen Elizabeth supporting her throughout the process. The Princess took on her recommendations for a full royal ceremony, but still wanted to stand out.
The bride-to-be pinpointed her tiara as a way to really make her mark on history. Determined to be her own person, Eugenie declined to reuse a famous piece from a recent royal bride. Instead, she went way, way back.
As she scoured the family’s extensive jewel collection, Eugenie learned about Margaret Greville. The wife of a Member of Parliament, she established herself as a prominent socialite around the turn of the century with a distinct sense of style.
In particular, the Princess had her eye on the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara. This headwear set itself apart from most other tiaras in the collection due to its prominent colored stones. No recent royal wedding dared feature such an accessory.
Accompanied by her father, Prince Andrew, the princess was led before the Dean of Windsor who stood alongside a waiting Brooksbank. There, the two knelt as the Dean gave his address and then passed the service to the Archbishop of York for a personal prayer.
Eugenie wasn’t afraid to go where no princess had gone before. She sported the bold tiara as she walked down the aisle. Many attendees were so entranced that they could hardly focus on the lovebirds’ exchange of vows.
When the prayers and readings were complete, the couple exchanged vows and Brooksbank slipped a ring made of Welsh gold onto the princess’s finger. Following the signing of the registers, the ceremony was complete — Princess Eugenie and Brooksbank were now man and wife!
The service was capped with a rousing rendition of the British national anthem, and the couple began making their way back down the aisle and out of the chapel. But before they did so, they made sure to stop directly in front of the Queen.
There, Brooksbank bowed to both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, though Princess Eugenie decided to take it a step further. Stooping low, the princess dropped and gave her grandmother a heartwarming curtsy.
Hand in hand, the couple walked through the doors of St. Charles and was greeted by an enormous crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. But before they departed for the reception, Princess Eugenie and Brooksbank shared a kiss for all the world to see.
“We met when I was 20 and Jack was 24 and fell in love. We have the same passions and drive for life,” the princess shared in a interview with BBC. Though that wasn’t the only thing the two had in common.
Princess Eugenie and Brooksbank share a connection to the British royal family: the two are actually distantly related. This, however, is relatively common among British royal couples, as even Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are third cousins.
Not long after their first meeting, the princess and Brooksbank were spotted together at the Royal Ascot horse race. Many considered this a huge step in the relationship, as even Kate Middleton wasn’t permitted to attend until after marrying Prince William.
From there, the couple only continued to grow closer, though in 2013 they were forced to spend time apart after Princess Eugenie moved to New York City to work as an auctions manager for Paddle8. The distance, however, only seemed to make hearts grow fonder.
Even with their busy schedules, the couple always made sure to stay in constant contact. “We spend a lot of time on Skype,” Brooksbank told Daily Mail. “It’s great. We are still very much together.”
In 2015, the princess returned to London where she and Brooksbank picked up right where they left off. With five happy years under the couple’s belt, those close to the royal family swore they could hear wedding bells on the horizon.
Rumors of an engagement only grew louder in 2016 after the couple spent a weekend at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. According to one source, there was no way Brooksbank would’ve been invited to stay unless he was soon to be welcomed into the family.
Sure enough, the big moment came in 2018 while the couple was on holiday in Nicaragua. Even after seven years together, the princess was caught completely off guard when Brooksbank knelt beside the moonlit water and finally popped the question.
“I was over the moon. [It was a] complete surprise,” Princess Eugenie told BBC, who also spoke with the soon-to-be groom: “It was amazing. I love Eugenie so much, and we are just so happy and over the moon for what is to come.”
Following Buckingham Palace’s announcement of the engagement, the princess shared her ring with the public for the first time. A striking custom piece of jewelry featuring a padparadscha sapphire, a perfect match for her iconic wedding tiara.