Bookmakers scent a British royal engagement

Fri Dec 18, 2009 10:15am EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - She's been hanging on for so long that she's become known as "waity Katie," but now bookmakers are shortening the odds that Prince William will propose to his girlfriend Kate Middleton before the end of the year.

In the past two weeks, William Hill have reduced the odds on the chance of a royal engagement after the Queen warned paparazzi to stay away from the royal Christmas celebrations at Sandringham in Norfolk.

The bookie is now offering odds of 2 to 1 that the future king -- the son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana -- will propose before midnight on December 31, compared with 6 to 1 before the Queen's recent demand. William and Kate, 27, the daughter of middle-class, self-made entrepreneurs, started dating when they shared a house as students at St Andrews University in Scotland. They split up in 2007 and got back together later that year, prompting persistent speculation about an engagement ever since.

Weighing against a proposal is the fact William, also 27, has said he does not want to marry before he is 28 or 30. Kate has been accused by critics of putting her life on hold as she waits for him to pop the question.

A proposal would legitimize her status, they say. Rupert Adams, a royal-watcher at William Hill, said his money would be on the couple getting engaged next year rather than this, but the bookmaker believes it is a question of when, not if, and has closed bets on whether they will tie the knot.

"We don't think it's a viable market ... We're quite certain they will get engaged and that she's the one," he said.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Fullerton; Editing by Steve Addison)

<p>Britain's Prince William (L) smiles as he walks with his girlfriend Kate Middleton at RAF Cranwell, central England April 11, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Dunlea/Pool</p>