Prince William is to marry girlfriend Kate Middleton next year after proposing last month, using his mother’s iconic engagement ring but hoping to “learn lessons from the past”, as Gary Gibbon hears.
The couple, both 28, are set to marry in the spring or summer of 2011 in London, with the occasion rumoured to be declared a national holiday.
Prince William proposed on holiday in Kenya last month.
Clarence House said in a statement today: “The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton.”
Buckingham Palace said that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are “absolutely delighted” for the couple.
Prince William, who recently made a trip to Afghanistan to honour the fallen, sought permission from Miss Middleton’s father, Clarence House said.
It has emerged that the Prince gave Kate Middleton his mother’s engagement ring, which he’d hidden in his rucksack during a “romantic break” in Kenya last month. The Prince proposed with the blue sapphire and diamond ring that his father, the Prince of Wales, gave to Diana, Princess of Wales, in February 1981.
The couple declined to say whether William went down on one knee, but Kate said the moment had been “very romantic and very personal”.
William explained why he’d given Kate his mother’s ring:”It was my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement, and the fact that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together.”
Read more on William and Kate and their Royal future
The couple, who met as students at the University of St Andrews in 2001, will live in north Wales once married.
Prince William, who has served with the Royal Air Force in Wales since earlier this year, will continue in his role for the next three years.
His brother Prince Harry said of the engagement: “I am delighted that my brother has popped the question! It means I get a sister, which I have always wanted.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said the announcement was “incredibly exciting news” and said the whole country would want to extend their best wishes to the happy couple.
“I was given the news in a cabinet meeting,” he said. “I was passed a piece of paper and announced the news in the middle of the cabinet meeting and there was a great cheer went up and a great banging of the table.
“It’s a great day for our country, a great day for the Royal family and obviously a great day for Prince William and for Kate.” Prime Minister David Cameron.
“As well as being a great moment for national celebration, we also have to remember this is two young people who love each other who have made this announcement, who are looking forward to their wedding, and we must give them plenty of space to think about the future and what they are about to do.
The bridegroom only agreed to the marriage to pay off his debts and was so appalled when he saw (and smelt) the bride that he spent most of the marriage night in an alcoholic stupor with his head in the grate. Nevertheless he managed to father a daughter. It was probably the only time the couple slept together.
David Starkey looks at the latest Royal wedding in a line of colourful nuptials.
“But it’s a great day for our country, a great day for the Royal family and obviously a great day for Prince William and for Kate.”
The Prime Minister also admitted he slept on the Mall the night that Prince Charles married Diana, and “joined in the celebrations”.
The couple’s forthcoming wedding has been subject to intense speculation since they began dating in 2003, despite a brief split in 2007.
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Set to take place in London, a wedding at Westminster Abbey is anticipated – although the funeral of Prince Williams’ mother Diana took place at the Abbey, as did the Queen Mother’s.
The Queen married the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster in 1947. The Abbey holds around 2,000 guests.
Meanwhile, William’s parents Prince Charles and Diana married at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981 – which can hold up to 3,500 people.
Prince William and Kate Middleton: a timeline
January 2006: William is photographed kissing Kate in public for the first time during a skiing break in Klosters. Days later, William begins his Army training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
March 2006: Kate, without William, is invited into the Royal Box at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Also there is the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
April 2006: Kate's lawyers make complaints to newspapers and picture agencies after she is photographed on a shopping trip.
April 2006: The pair holiday on the Caribbean hideaway island of Mustique. They are snapped on a yacht together.
August 2006: They holiday in Ibiza ahead of William's final term at Sandhurst.
November 2006: Kate gets a job as an accessories buyer with Jigsaw, the fashion chain owned by friends of her family. Former high street retailer Woolworths designs a souvenir wedding plate - several years too soon.
December 2006: Kate makes her most significant appearance to date as she turns up to watch William graduate as an Army officer at Sandhurst.
January 2007: Kate's lawyers try to persuade newspaper editors to stop using paparazzi pictures of her after she is confronted by a media scrum outside her home on her 25th birthday. There are reports that legal action is being considered.
March 2007: William starts Army training at Camp Bovington, Dorset. The pair are pictured at the Cheltenham Gold Cup together. Kate makes her first official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission over alleged harassment in connection with a photo used in the Daily Mirror. She later settles the matter after an apology from the paper.
April 14, 2007: William and Kate are confirmed to have split.
June 2007: Speculation mounts that the couple are back together after they are seen kissing and dancing together at an Army party.
July 1, 2007: Kate joins William at the Wembley Stadium Concert for Diana, fuelling rumours that the couple are back together.
July 11 2007: The Media and Sport Select Committee accuses the Press Complaints Commission of failing to help protect Kate from "clear and persistent harassment" by the paparazzi.
October 2007: William and Middleton are photographed out on the town together for the first time since their split. Kate joins William at Balmoral for a private weekend with Charles and Camilla. At the same time, the Prince voices concern after he and Kate are "aggressively" pursued in their car by the paparazzi.
August 2007: Security concerns force Kate to pull out of a Dover to Calais Chinese dragon boat race.
April 11, 2008: Kate appears at William's side at his graduation ceremony from the RAF, suggesting the couple's relationship is now permanent and has the approval of senior royals.
May 17, 2008: Kate attends the wedding of William's cousin, Peter Phillips, to Autumn Kelly. William attends another wedding in Africa.
June 16, 2008: Kate attends the Order of the Garter service at Windsor Castle to watch William taking part. It is the first time she has appeared at a formal and official Royal public occasion.
June 22, 2008: William marks his 26th birthday by playing side by side with his brother Harry in a charity polo match, with Kate watching from the sidelines. The celebrations continued with a private party at Prince Charles's home at Highgrove.
July 19, 2008: Kate attends her second royal wedding of the year without William. She is present at the marriage between Lady Rose Windsor.
Christmas and New Year 2008: The couple holiday at the royal retreat of Birkhall, the Prince of Wales's home on the Queen's private Balmoral estate in Scotland.
May 2009: The couple are pictured together for the first time in five months after being spotted at a polo match.
December 2009: The Queen's lawyers warn newspapers against publishing paparazzi photos of the Royal family, fuelling speculation William and Kate are to wed.
January 2010: The pair take a New Year break at Birkhall.
January 15, 2010: Kate watches as William graduates on an advanced helicopter training course and receives his flying badge from the Prince of Wales.
February 2010: William remarks "You'll have to wait a while yet" when asked by a member of the public about the prospect of a royal wedding.
March 2010: The couple holiday with Kate's family on the slopes of Courchevel, France.
March 2010: Kate gives an insight into her childhood in an online question and answer session on her parents' firm's website. The link is later removed after the details are reported.
October 2010: Kate and William are photographed attending the Gloucestershire wedding of a friend.
November 16: The couple's engagement announced in a brief statement released by Clarence House.