While many details are yet to be revealed, the guest list for King Charles III’s coronation already reads like a who’s who of international royalty, world leaders, charity champions and certain hand-picked aristocrats.
But taking one VIP seat will be a more unexpected guest: Andrew Parker Bowles, Queen Camilla’s former husband.
Camilla, 75, and Andrew, 83, divorced in 1995 after 22 years of marriage, but remain close friends – despite a complicated history of infidelity on both sides.
This will be Parker Bowles’ second coronation at Westminster Abbey, as at the age of 13 he was one of the pages when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953.
Andrew Parker Bowles and Camilla were married for 22 years and had two children, Tom and Laura, before divorcing in 1995.
The couple dated off and on for several years before getting married at the Guards’ Chapel in 1973
Camilla was Charles’ famous mistress during her marriage to Andrew, with the latter being described by friends as “very naughty with women.”
They have two children: food writer Tom, 48, and Laura Lopes, 45, an artist.
Tom’s son Freddy, 13, and Laura’s twin sons Gus and Louis, also 13, will be Camilla’s pages of honor at the coronation, with the train of her robes.
The author Tina Brown has claimed that it was Andrew, rather than Charles, who was the love of Camilla’s life. Whatever the truth, the man Brown describes as “a walking pink gin” would remain one of her most important confidants.
“They’re joined at the hip,” said a friend. “He arranges so much for her. They have lunch together all the time. He’s in there. He was always, and still is, Camilla’s co-conspirator.”
Known as ‘The Brigadier’ in reference to his former career as an army officer who served with the Blues and Royals and received a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in Zimbabwe, Andrew has moved in royal circles for decades.
At the age of 13 he served as a page to Lord Simonds, then the Lord High Chancellor, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
“My mother was a good friend of the Duke of Norfolk,” he recalls. ‘The Lord Chancellor had no children, so Bernard Norfolk introduced me to Lord Simonds. I must say he was the nicest man in the world and gave me a very nice set of cufflinks.’
As a 13-year-old, Andrew served as a page to Lord Simonds, then the Lord High Chancellor, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Once considered a ladies’ man, Parker Bowles had a brief fling with Princess Anne before marrying Camilla. The pair, pictured on Derby Day at Epsom, remain close friends
A handsome figure as a young man, Parker Bowles played polo on the same team as Prince Charles. Pictured here (right) with the prince during a royal visit to Kenya in 1971
Parker Bowles served as an officer in the Household Cavalry. Here he stands in uniform directly behind Charles during Zimbabwe’s independence ceremony in 1980
Commanding officer of the Blue and Royals, Andrew (pictured in center background) accompanied the newly married Charles and Diana on horseback after their wedding
Author Tina Brown claims it was Andrew Parker Bowles rather than Charles who had been the love of Camilla’s life
Describing a sword fight in dress rehearsal, he said, “All the pages had these little swords. When a group of bored little boys all have swords, you know what’s going to happen.”
Before marrying Camilla, he had a brief affair with Princess Anne, but his Catholicism is said to have dampened the prospects of marriage. However, they remain good friends and she later called him godfather to her daughter Zara.
He also played polo on the same team as Charles when both men were young and raced in the 1969 Grand National where he placed 11th.
He first met Camilla in the late 1960s and they dated for several years before getting married in 1973.
According to Andrew’s cousin, John Bowes Lyon, the couple were pressured to make the commitment when both their fathers published an engagement notice for them in The Times.
“Publicly forcing his hand, Andrew proposed to his girlfriend of nearly seven years,” author Sarah Bedell Smith wrote.
“Camilla was deeply in love with[Andrew],” Bowes Lyon told Smith. “Her parents really wanted Andrew to marry her.”
The Queen Mother, Princess Anne and Princess Margaret all attended their weddings and the reception was held at St James’s Palace.
Camilla spent a stint as Charles’s mistress during her marriage to Andrew. Pictured: Charles and Camilla leave a London theater in 1975
Andrew Parker Bowles is pictured with the Queen Mother at Sandown Park in 1995
Charles attended the wedding of Andrew and Camilla’s son, Tom Parker Bowles, in 2005
Andrew was a guest at Charles and Camilla’s wedding in April 2005. He is pictured here after attending the blessing service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor
Pictured at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, Andrew and Camilla remain good friends. A friend described them as ‘jointed at the hip’
As Commander of the Household Cavalry, Andrew accompanied the newly married Charles and Diana on horseback after their 1981 wedding.
Tina Brown claimed that Camilla only resumed her affair with Charles because she was angry at her husband’s infidelity.
Parker Bowles, once seen as a dashing figure and a bit of a ladies’ man, is said to have provided at least some of the inspiration for Rupert Campbell-Black, a character in Jilly Cooper’s bonkbuster Riders.
Andrew and Camilla divorced in 1995, saying in a statement that “we’ve always had quite different interests throughout our marriage, but in recent years we’ve lived completely separate lives.”
The following year, he married his long-term mistress Rosemary Pitman. They were together until Rosemary passed away from cancer in 2010 at the age of 69.
At the time of her death, it was reported that Camilla was “deeply saddened” by the news.
Andrew was a guest at Charles and Camilla’s wedding in April 2005 and attended their blessing service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
The Marchioness of Lansdowne, one of Camilla’s Queen’s Companions, has said, ‘Everyone loves Andrew. He’s a real charmer, but he always behaves horribly.
“Andrew will call her and tell her when she’s wrong and she’ll call him and tell her when he’s misbehaving.
“Through adversity, they have kept a very good family ethic. It helps with their children and grandchildren.’