Dignified silence of the other half

As a dashing young cavalry officer, Andrew Parker Bowles inspired raunchy novelist Jilly Cooper to create one of her most legendary characters.

The writer based her unscrupulous aristocratic showjumper Rupert Campbell-Black, who bounds around breaking hearts in the racy book Riders, partly on Camilla’s then husband.

Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, 64, once even dated Princess Anne but eventually married Camilla in 1973. He is held in high esteem in royal circles and was pageboy at the Queen’s Coronation.

The former cavalry officer was educated at leading Catholic public school Ampleforth, near York.

After attending Sandhurst, he joined his father’s regiment, the Royal Horse Guards, and in the early 1970s served in Northern Ireland.

His family have been friends with the Royal Family for years, and he and Charles have known each other since childhood.

Andrew eventually became Silver-Stick-In-Waiting to the Queen - a senior courtier charged with protecting the Sovereign - and Colonel Commanding of the Household Cavalry.

Before his retirement from the Army in 1994, he was director of the Army Veterinary Corps.

Despite being spectacularly cuckolded by fellow Guards officer, the Prince of Wales, Andrew remained on friendly terms with the royals - and Camilla.

In 1992, when it emerged the Prince and Camilla had been secretly meeting, he even denounced the allegations as “rubbish”. But, in the end, Andrew and Camilla were said to have effectively led separate lives.

Yet the Brigadier maintained a dignified silence during the intense media speculation.

In 1996, after his divorce from Camilla, Andrew wed Rosemary Pitman to whom he had been linked for some time.

Andrew was a guest at Charles’s stag night and has never publicly criticised the Prince and even attended Charles’s 50th birthday party.

On occasions he has been known to react angrily to jibes. At Royal Ascot in 1992, he was seen to pummel a friend’s arm after a remark likening him to Ernest Simpson, husband of Edward VIII’s mistress Wallis Simpson.

However, the chances are Andrew will keep his own counsel concerning the wedding, especially bearing in mind his sense of chivalry and loyalty to the Queen.

Tom Parker Bowles is perhaps most famous for being exposed for snorting cocaine at a posh party.

Camilla and Andrew’s son faced a media storm after it was revealed in 1999 that he had admitted taking the class-A drug.

He had already been cautioned, four years earlier, for carrying cannabis and Ecstasy while studying at Oxford. Eton-educated, Tom is Charles’s godson and the Prince reportedly telephoned to read him the riot act over the scandal. At the time, he was working in Soho as a film publicist and once accompanied Hollywood starlet Alicia Silverstone to the Baftas.

Tom, who left Oxford with a second-class English degree, had been Baron of the University’s Assassins Club, renowned for its drunken parties and bizarre antics.

Post-university, his party-going reputation swelled thanks to his regular appearances at trendy London clubs.

Following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Tom became close to Prince William and there were concerns he was a bad influence on the second-in-line to the throne. Since the furore over his drug taking, his life has got back on track. He is marrying magazine executive Sara Buys in September, writes about food for Tatler magazine and the Mail On Sunday, and has published his first food book, E Is For Eating.

Alongside Prince William, Tom will act as an official witness at his mother’s wedding.

In comparison, 26-year-old daughter Laura Parker Bowles has been far less troublesome.

A history graduate, she runs The Space Gallery in London’s Belgravia and is described as “level-headed”. After attending a convent boarding school in Dorset, she went backpacking with friends through South America.

Laura once admitted: “You can’t pretend that people aren’t interested in your name.”

She is dating long-term boyfriend, former Calvin Klein model, Harry Lopes, a grandson of the late Lord Astor of Hever.

Laura’s soon-to-be stepfather, the Prince, is said to be particularly fond of her and she is reported to be delighted that he is marrying her mother.

Like Tom, Laura is probably pleased their mother is no longer a royal mistress. Years of leg-pulling and embarrassment may soon be replaced by recognition that Charles and Camilla are now, at least, socially respectable.

Parker Bowles, however, will remain a name to be conjured with.