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At Last Sarah Gets the Ring;The Palace Announces Andrew's Engagement

Overall, news of the engagement was greeted with widespread delight by a nation that considers members of the royal family its biggest celebrities and watches their every move with a level of attention surpassing that devoted to television soap operas. Both the BBC and independent television broadcast special programs rerunning the royal interview and documentary biographies of the two.

Many a maiden's heart is likely to be broken by the ending of Andrew's bachelor days. But matrons across the land will breathe a vicarious sigh of relief that the queen's handsome and rambunctious son, whose previous liaisons with soft-porn starlets and models have been well publicized, finally has chosen a suitable mate.

Fred Oxer, the 64-year-old gardener at the Ferguson family estate in Hampshire, reflected a popular view of Sarah when he told reporters today: "She is a good girl, a very nice girl."

Although she is technically a commoner, strong blue blood runs through Sarah's veins. Burke's Peerage pointed out she has more ties to the ancient and royal families of the country than does her future husband. She is a direct descendant of Charles II (with his mistress Lucy Walters). Sarah and Andrew are sixth cousins, sharing common ancestors in the fourth Duke of Devonshire and his wife, Lady Charlotte, dating from the mid 18th century.

A Burke's news release noted that Sarah's "private life" has been "unorthodox," an apparent reference to previous long-term relationships with at least two other men.

Ominously vague, Burke's warned that "the marriage . . . will open up a Pandora's box of problems that will alter Royal etiquette and protocol beyond all recognition. The only first left for the Royal Family will be for one of their number to remarry after a divorce."

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