Prince William to marry girlfriend Kate Middleton

Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:52pm EST
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Prince William will marry his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton next year after an on-off courtship that has lasted nearly a decade.

The elder son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana proposed to Middleton with the large blue oval sapphire and diamond engagement ring his mother once wore as Charles's 19-year-old fiancee.

"It's very special to me," William told reporters on Tuesday. "It's my way of making sure my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement and the fact we are going to spend the rest of our lives together."

The two 28-year-olds will marry in the spring or summer of 2011, 30 years after Charles and Diana's spectacular but ultimately ill-fated wedding.

"I didn't realize it was a race, otherwise I would have been a lot quicker, but also the timing is right now, we're both very happy, and I'm very glad that I have done it," William told reporters in London as the beaming couple posed arm-in-arm for the cameras of the world press.

Diana, who was said to be the world's most photographed woman during her lifetime, was divorced from Charles in 1996 and died a year later in a car crash after a high-speed chase through Paris with the paparazzi in hot pursuit.

Middleton will now have to get used to the huge media attention that her role will attract, but she looked calm as she appeared with William, blinking at the glittering flashbulbs of the massed ranks of photographers.

In an informal interview with an ITN reporter, she said Diana was an "inspiration" whom she wished she had met.   Continued...

<p>Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton (L) pose for a photograph in St. James's Palace, central London November 16, 2010. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett</p>