It was officially announced this morning that Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged and will marry in 2011. You could almost feel the sigh of relief from this side of the pond.
In a thoroughly 21st century twist, the engagement was simultaneously announced on the British Monarchy’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. (Queen Elizabeth just joined FB earlier this month. Coincidence?)
William and Kate, both 28, were engaged in October while they were vacationing at a Kenyan game reserve, and the wedding will take place in the spring or summer. According to the Daily Mail, bookies have made August 13th and Westminster Abbey early favorites for the wedding date and venue. HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, William’s mother, were wed at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1981.
Everyone is “absolutely delighted” (Queen and Duke of Edinburgh), “thrilled” (Earl Spencer, William’s uncle and the brother of Diana) and “incredibly excited” (Prime Minister David Cameron).
The focus, of course, is on Kate. Or should I say the former “Waity Katy” and the future “People’s Princess or Queen-In-Waiting?” The former because she hung in for eight years in a long, slow and steady courtship and the latter, well, the comparisons to Diana, who died in 1997, are obvious. More on that.
The pair first met in 2001 while attending St. Andrews University, eventually sharing a house with friends. William entered the military, graduating as an officer at Sandhurst in 2006, while Kate has never really had a job.
The jeers have always been audible amid the tepid acknowledgment that it’s really hard to work with all those paparazzi following her every step since Day One. Or March 2002, when we were first introduced to Kate when William paid £200 to watch her model a sheer black lace dress in a fashion show. (Not a job–it went to charity!)
Kate is both a professional and romantic blank slate. Let’s face it; she’s been dating William since she was 20 and, as the Montreal Gazette points out, has “no history of posting titillating status updates or blurry pics from the latest party.” She has been the essence of discretion–which in this day may be more valuable than royal blood. Kate will be the U.K.’s first middle class queen-in-waiting.
“We have a lot to learn about our future Queen,” Robert Finch, Dominion chairman of The Monarchist League of Canada, told the Gazette. “Part of the interest and excitement surrounding Miss Middleton is the mystery, quite frankly.”
Princess Diana was a mystery too. Which is just the beginning of the comparisons. Both are natural beauties and fresh spirits. They dress well and like to wear hats. Kate comes to the engagement as far more confident and poised than Shy Di. Of course, Diana was just 19 when she became betrothed to an obviously reluctant Charles, while Kate is nine years her relative senior. And William appears smitten with her.
For example, according to the Daily Telegraph, when one friend once remarked she was lucky to be with William, Kate reportedly quipped: ”He’s lucky to be going out with me.” In contrast, in the early days of Diana’s relationship with Charles, she said: ”If I am lucky enough to be the Princess of Wales….”
In the royal fantasy, Diana weds Charles in a storybook wedding and made-for-Disney marriage. We all know how that ended–which is not to discount Diana’s very important charity work with HIV/AIDS and landmines. But it’s also the Kate-William fantasy. What this couple needs is the exact opposite.
Here’s a start: The couple will live in North Wales. Prince William will continue to serve with the Royal Air Force. Kate needs to shed the “Waity Katy” moniker once and for all and find something to do–fast.