LONDON -- The duchess of York, former commoner Sarah Ferguson who married Prince Andrew in a dazzling fairy-tale wedding in 1986, is pregnant and expecting their first child in August, Buckingham Palace announced today.
The child would be fifth in line to the British throne.
A palace spokesman said Sarah is in excellent health and the royal family is 'delighted' by the news of her pregnancy.
The duchess was at her country home in Surrey and has no public engagements until Friday, when she and the duke are to attend the world premiere in London of the film 'White Mischief.'
The duke, a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy, was carrying out duties at his naval base in Portland in southern England.
'We think it is absolutely great news,' Second Officer Sallie Field said by telephone from the base. 'Everyone on the base is delighted.'
Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying: 'The duke and duchess of York are very pleased to announce that the duchess is expecting a baby in August.'
The announcement confirmed weeks of speculation and 'royal sources' stories by the British press that the duchess, popularly referred to by her nickname Fergie, was pregnant.
Sarah, 28, avoided commenting on the reports and simply smiled and waved off questions of whether she was pregnant.
She was at the center of a security scare in New York Friday when an Irish Republican Army supporter brandishing an Irish flag on a flagpole rushed her as she returned to her hotel after attending the Broadway opening of the musical 'Phantom of the Opera.'
The attacker, a 22-year-old Irish-American, was stopped by security officers several feet from the duchess. She was unharmed and, according to aides, unfazed.
Andrew, who will be 28 on Feb. 19, is the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and is fourth in line to the throne, behind his older brother, Charles, and Charles's two children, William and Harry.
Andrew's child would automatically be fifth in line to the throne, the palace said, moving Andrew's younger brother, Prince Edward, one notch further back.
Within an hour of the announcement, one of Britain's largest bookmaking firms came out with odds of whether it would be a boy or girl and the child's likely name.
The William Hill firm said it was offering odds of 5-6 that the child would be a boy, even money for a girl, and 66-1 against twins. The favorite names were George and Elizabeth, both at 3-1 odds.
The royal couple will go ahead with plans to travel to Los Angeles at the end of February to attend the U.K.-L.A. '88 Festival, a celebration of the British arts.
'That will go ahead as currently planned but with some inevitable but minor changes,' the palace spokesman said. 'She will continue to undertake some public engagements until the beginning of June.'
Sarah was born a commoner and worked in a London graphic arts office. She married Andrew in a fairy-tale Westminster Abbey ceremony full of royal pomp and circumstance and seen on television by millions worldwide on July 23, 1986.
With the ceremony, performed by the archbishop of Canterbury, the couple acquired the titles duke and duchess of York.
Sarah officially became 'Her Royal Highness the Princess Andrew, Duchess of York.' Brides of royal princes in Britain normally take their husbands' Christian names.
Although born a commoner, Sarah Margaret Ferguson is a direct descendant of King Charles II by a mistress and grew up in the English countryside on her father's $3 million estate, cushioned by the wealth and privileges of Britain's upper class.
Her father, retired Maj. Ronald Ferguson of the Household Calvary, a first cousin of Princess Alice, the duchess of Gloucester, holds the post of Prince Charles' polo manager.
Thanks to her father's ties with the royal family, Sarah was a childhood playmate of Andrew at Windsor Castle -- a friendship that later led to their dating and engagement.
Sarah is a fun-loving, athletic person -- an accomplished horseback rider who also enjoys tennis, swimming and skiing. She took flying lessons after her marriage and recently earned her wings for small aircraft.