It’s hard to feel any sympathy for two young women who were born into immense privilege and live lives of monied leisure. However, today you might feel the smallest of twinges for Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. Nobody, after all, can help their parents, and the sins of the father should never be visited on the children. What sins, though. And what a father. With Prince Andrew’s removal from public life surely permanent, his daughters are in an awkward limbo: princesses with no royal role, and a toxic father who, while not admitting liability, has just agreed to a multimillion dollar settlement in a sexual assault case.
“It is challenging to start off feeling very royal and end up less so,” a royal insider once said. “And you can’t overestimate how hard it is being the child of Prince Andrew and Fergie.”
Princess Beatrice, now 33, was born at the Portland Hospital on August 8, 1988, two years after her parents got married at Westminster Abbey, in a blaze of good publicity and cheering crowds. As Debrett’s notes, “as a male-line grandchild of the Queen, she is styled Her Royal Highness, with the title Princess.” On March 23, 1990, the Duke and Duchess of York celebrated the birth of their second Portland princess, Eugenie, now 31. But in 1996, their parents’ marriage ended in divorce.
From that point on, even the most protective of palace establishments would struggle to shield them from their parents’ exploits: “Freeloading Fergie” accused of accepting umpteen free holidays and free gifts, and selling access to their father to an undercover reporter. “Air Miles Andy” traveling the world by private jet to drum up trade for the UK, particularly when such opportunities were found close to a championship golf course.
The girls were at Balmoral when a tabloid ran photos of their mother having her toes sucked by her “financial adviser”, and remained there after she caught a plane home from Scotland in disgrace shortly after. In spite of the public dramas, their private upbringing appears to have been loving and stable, with both girls devoted to their parents and to each other.
With Prince Andrew’s removal from public life surely permanent, his daughters are in an awkward limbo.
“We’re each other’s rocks,” Eugenie has said, because “we’re the only person in each other’s lives who can know exactly what the other one is going through.”
“The Yorks are a very tight-knit group, which makes them quite a formidable force,” a former royal aide told The Telegraph. “Beatrice and Eugenie are aware of their privilege, but devoid of pomposity. They’re fun.”
Beatrice is said to be the quieter foil to Eugenie’s more outgoing temperament. They were brought up at Sunninghill Park in Ascot, even after their parents divorced. In 2006, they moved to Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park. Beatrice left school in Ascot with A-levels in drama, film studies and history.
“I work hard,” she told a magazine, “but that’s only because I had a great example. I see my mother and father, who both work so hard.”
In 2008 she embarked on a history degree at Goldsmith’s College, London, graduating with a 2:1 in 2011. As a student, she lived at St James’s Palace, in a flat refurbished with $340,000 of taxpayer money. Described by one royal official as “a small set of attic rooms,” she is said to have paid a heavily discounted rent to the crown. In 2011, she and Eugenie lost their 24-hour police protection, to the fury of their father. Eugenie went to Marlborough and then to Newcastle University. For a decade, she lived with Beatrice at St James’s Palace, ostensibly forging careers while maintaining a hectic social schedule.
Their father insisted that they were “blood princesses” and attempted to shoehorn them into royal roles for which there was little appetite from any quarter. Beatrice was said to have felt snubbed when her offer to “help” during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was met with little enthusiasm. Meanwhile Eugenie got a job with an online auction house in New York and, in 2015, joined Hauser and Wirth, a contemporary art gallery in Mayfair. Their father described them as “modern, working young women,” who “happen to be members of the royal family.”
“The reason I am in the art world is down to me, not because I have a title,” Eugenie claims. She is said to have taken 25 days’ holiday during her first ten weeks at the gallery, while her sister once went on 18 holidays in a year. Their father hoped that Megxit, and his own removal from public duties, would lead to greater roles on the royal stage for his daughters. It would be “logical”, a source close to him told The Sunday Times in 2019, if his daughters replaced him as patrons of the organizations he supported. The director of a think tank, Charity Futures, told the newspaper that they would “probably not be queuing up for Princess Beatrice and Eugenie.”
“The promotion that Andrew hoped for in terms of his daughters will now never happen,” a royal source told the Daily Mail after the prince’s disastrous interview on Newsnight. “They will have to focus on the day job.”
As a student, she lived at St James’s Palace, in a flat refurbished with $340,000 of taxpayer money.
Today, while the extent of their day jobs remains unclear, Eugenie lives at Frogmore Cottage, just up the road from Royal Lodge, where her father is holed up in disgrace with his ex-wife for the foreseeable future, while Beatrice and her husband, Edo, are at St James’s Palace.
Eugenie met her husband, Jack Brooksbank, in Verbier in 2010. The couple married in St George’s Chapel in 2018 and now have a son, August. The same year, the sisters posed for British Vogue and gave an interview in which they spoke about the difficulties in maintaining a work-life balance in the public eye “as working, young royal women”, as Eugenie put it.
While her husband works as a brand ambassador for a tequila company, it was reputedly her job that took them this week to Los Angeles, for the Frieze art fair. The couple are staying with Prince Harry and his family, and Eugenie was photographed with him at the Super Bowl. She is the first member of the royal family to visit him since Megxit, and the trip is seen as a show of solidarity and raised hopes in some quarters that she might help heal the rift with the wider family.
Beatrice dated a businessman, Dave Clark, for a decade, but the pair split up in 2016. In 2020, she married a property developer, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and the couple now share a daughter, Sienna. Before they became parents, both sisters were a fixture on the national and international social scene, at fashionable restaurants, private members’ clubs and society weddings, wearing designer clothes and mixing with friends including Dasha Zhukova, the ex-wife of Roman Abramovich, the actress Suki Waterhouse and the model Cara Delevingne. They are not thought to rely on their salaries to fund their lifestyles, but instead to benefit from trust funds set up for them by the Queen Mother and the Queen.
“We are young women trying to build careers and have personal lives,” Beatrice told Vogue, “and we’re also princesses.”
“There’s no point in being angry with anyone for beating us up,” Eugenie said in the same interview. “We just need to shine light and love in the world.”
Hilary Rose is a longtime columnist for The Times of London, and the author of the weekly column How to Get Dressed