Camilla (formerly Shand) Parker Bowles' first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, will play a very important part of the upcoming drama on The Crown. Played by Andrew Buchan, Andrew Parker Bowles serves as one member of the biggest royal love square (rectangle?) in history—himself, his wife Camilla, her lover and future husband Prince Charles, and his wife Princess Diana. We'll have to wait and see how the show explores the relationship in seasons three and four, but the real-life Andrew already has plenty of drama to explore. What's truth, and what's fiction?
His family was connected to the royals.
Andrew was born in 1939 to a family that was already connected to the royals—his father, Derek Parker Bowles, had a close relationship with the Queen Mother and she became Andrew's godmother. He ran in the same social circles as Charles as a polo player, and even was apparently friends with the royal. Charles met Camilla through one such polo match.
Andrew served in the British army and had a long career, retiring in the 1990s.
His relationship with Camilla was complex.
The pair met after Camilla finished school, but he was dating multiple people (which would be a theme throughout their relationship and even after they got married). He dated Princess Alice off and on—sources differ on how serious the relationship was, but she would never have been able to marry him because he was Catholic. Camilla also, very notably, dated her future second husband, Prince Charles, during this time. There are differing reports of why Charles and Camilla broke up, including that the royal family thought they were an unsuitable match, and/or that Camilla was obsessed with Andrew and would always prefer him to anyone else.
Parker Bowles married Camilla in 1973 (when she was 26 and he was 34) after years of being off and on, and the two had children, Tom and Laura.
He (allegedly) had multiple affairs while they were married, and sources differ on how much the pair shared with each other and were accepting of extramarital relationships. Fun fact: Charles is Tom's godfather, so...it's a small world, if you know what I mean.
He doesn't really show up in The Crown.
Poor Andrew Parker Bowles doesn't get much attention in season three. The relationship between Charles and Camilla is laboriously shown—almost as much as the royal family's opposition to the relationship; The Crown presents Lord Montbatten and the Queen Mother in a Machiavellian plot to separate the two—but Andrew really only shows up as an afterthought, a plot device whose only real role is to leave Charles devastated. Andrew is not the villain in The Crown—the royal family is. It's likely that this emphasis on the royal family's onscreen opposition to Camilla and Charles, rather than the introduction of Andrew, foreshadows season four, in which we'll see the disastrous repercussions of that decision (spoiler: Charles cheats on Diana, Camilla cheats on Andrew, everyone is miserable).
In real life, Charles and Camilla's breakup probably had a lot more to do with her love for Andrew than it did the royal family's opposition to the "unsuitable" Camilla (which did occur—but there was no Machiavellian plot to separate the two, as far as we know). But that's a whole lot less interesting, and less to do with the drama of season four, than what's shown in The Crown, so you can see why the show ventured in that direction instead.
The couple divorced in 1995.
It's not totally clear when (or even whether) Camilla and Charles stopped seeing each other, but reports say as early as 1986. Later, they were honest about the affair they'd had when they were both married, leading to an enormous royal scandal. Charles apparently admitted he'd been unfaithful in a TV interview in 1994—yikes—and Andrew, who'd known about and even tolerated the situation—felt that to be too much. He initiated divorce proceedings, and the pair officially split up.
Andrew went on to marry his mistress, Rosemary Parker Bowles, the following year. Ironically, Andrew and Rosemary attended the wedding between Camilla and Charles (was it weird? Probably a little, right??), so their divorce was amicable and they've been seen interacting at events ever since. And Camilla even attended the memorial service of Andrew's second wife Rosemary after she died from breast cancer in 2010.
Andrew is still alive, and he still attends royal events. He even, apparently, has an amicable relationship with former girlfriend Princess Alice!
You can watch season three of The Crown on Netflix from Nov. 17.
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