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LONDON (Reuters) - Prince William, the second-in-line to the British throne, whose good looks mirror those of his late mother Princess Diana, is to end his spell as one of the world's most eligible bachelors.
The elder son of Prince Charles and Diana, William, 28, will marry his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton next year after an on-off courtship that first blossomed at university.
Like his mother, William and his younger brother Harry have been the subject of intense global media scrutiny that has led to several complaints to Britain's press watchdog and pleas for greater privacy.
Many cited intolerable media intrusion as a key factor behind William and Middleton's brief split in 2007. They had shared a house together as students at Scotland's St Andrews University where they began studying in 2001.
Middleton, the self-assured and elegant daughter of middle-class entrepreneurs, had already been hailed as the perfect 21st century princess for a monarchy beset by a series of scandals.
But there have been persistent doubts about whether their relationship would last under the glare of the media spotlight.
WORKING PRINCE William had always said he was in no hurry to walk down the aisle and would wait until he was 28 or 30. He turned 28 in June.
"It's been pretty clear that he has been mad about her for a long time and she about him," said royal commentator Penny Junor. "I think the body language has said it all: they are clearly very much in love and it's very sweet."
William, who trained as an army officer and now serves as a helicopter search-and-rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force, is seen by some as the perfect king for a modern age.
He has spoken of his wish to avoid being seen as a royal "ornament" whose primary role is to shake hands and instead wants to work for his country.
William laid a wreath in Afghanistan Sunday to honor Britain's war dead as part of annual remembrance ceremonies across the world.
His emergence into public life at the age of 21 was delicate given his mother's love-hate relationship with the media. She died in a 1997 car crash after a high-speed chase through the streets of Paris pursued by paparazzi.
Although his looks immediately recall Diana, some say William's character has been "Windsorised" to keep him in line with the royal family's more traditional view of the behavior expected from members of the House of Windsor.
His love of hunting, which his mother abhorred, and easy relationship with his father seem to bear that out.
William and his younger brother Harry were educated outside the palace confines and went to school, albeit exclusive establishments, where they mixed freely with their peers.
William attended Mrs Mynors School and then became a pupil at Wetherby School in London, followed by Ludgrove School in Berkshire. He later went to Eton College and then St Andrews University in Scotland where he graduated in Geography in 2005.
After their mother's death, the media gave William and Harry the space at school to be educated without constant intrusions from the paparazzi into their private lives.
But after his 21st birthday, William emerged fully into public life and his relationship with Middleton provoked a media feeding frenzy that echoed the worst hounding of Diana.
Editing by Paul Casciato