Another red-letter day for Prince Charles' social diary

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* Prince Charles might not consider it good timing, but there is yet more joy on the horizon for the family of Hugh Van Cutsem, his oldest friend.

* Prince Charles might not consider it good timing, but there is yet more joy on the horizon for the family of Hugh Van Cutsem, his oldest friend.

In a move that will garner many column inches, Van Cutsem's son, who is also called Hugh, is to marry his girlfriend of two years, Rose Astor. "I'm over the moon and thrilled, absolutely delighted," the bride-to-be told Pandora yesterday. "What more can I say?"

News of the engagement will spark fears of a repeat performance of the society soap opera that saw Prince Charles, above, boycott last month's "Wedding of the Year," between his godson, Edward Van Cutsem, and the Duke of Westminster's daughter, Lady Tamara Grosvenor.

The Prince of Wales eventually pulled out of that event, after the Van Cutsem family prevented him sitting alongside Camilla Parker Bowles - with whom they don't see eye-to-eye - during the service at Chester Cathedral.

There will be fevered speculation about the Prince's involvement in the next wedding, which takes place in Oxfordshire next year. But friends of the couple are adamant that the Prince will not be put in another Catch 22 situation, where he has to choose between his friends and his mistress.

"Because Hugh's the younger son, this will be much more intimate and more relaxed than last time," I'm told. "Also, the Prince is not his godfather, so there's far less protocol involved."

* GRACE JONES caused quite a stir at the first night of Swan Lake , in the austere surroundings of Sadler's Wells on Tuesday.

First, Jones arrived on the arm of society milliner, Philip Treacy - who was standing in for Jones' unlikely fiancé, Viscount Wimborne - wearing a fur hat several feet in diameter. Then she proceeded to light a cigarette in the bar.

"Sadler's Wells is a no-smoking building, so a waiter ran over with a glass of wine for her to put it out in," I'm told. "Grace Jones said 'but that's your wine,' and the rather terrified waiter said it was better than putting it in the olives."

The hat, meanwhile, ended up being mentioned in dispatches: "I feel terribly sorry for whoever was sitting behind her," said one of the dancers, after the show. "If she was wearing it, they wouldn't have been able to see a thing."

* RICHARD AND Judy's book club turned them into the most powerful couple in publishing. But some people aren't laughing.

Take George Courtauld. His Pocket Book of Patriotism was to feature on the show but got dropped at the last minute. Courtauld - who published the book privately - had already paid for 50,000 extra copies to be printed.

"They canned me, which was really hurtful," he says. "They said there was too much history on the programme already. It was sad, because I'd cut my hair and polished my shoes specially."

It's not all bad news though - the book, rejected by commercial publishers as "too right-wing" - is now available on the Labour Party's website.

* THE MAKERS of the TV series Dead Ringers are suffering from a macabre equivalent of the curse of Hello!

A few weeks back, they prepared a sketch on Fred Dibnah - only to have to pull it the day before it was to air, when the TV steeplejack died. In October, exactly the same happened, apropos of John Peel.

"All our performers are on the mature side, so we do run a risk of this happening," explains Ringers writer, Nev Fountain. "You could say we're a bit like Dad's Army , in that respect. We are quite brave sometimes, though: we've recently had both Patrick Moore and Gore Vidal on the show."

* An exchange of parliamentary questions has been published, endorsing the view - widely held in the United States (and elsewhere) - that most English people enjoy the dental health of Worzel Gummidge.

The Lib Dem MP Sandra Gidley asked the Department of Health what proportion of the population has none of its natural teeth left. The results are startling: "The worst region is Yorkshire and Humberside, where 21 per cent of people are toothless, followed by the North-east, with 19 per cent," she reports. "The best place is London and the South East, with 10 per cent."

Those figures applied in 1998, and updates will be published next week. "We think things could be getting worse," said Gidley, who was sucking a boiled sweet when I called.