The main British tabloids today splashed photos across their front pages of 23-year-old Prince William and his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, vacationing on the Caribbean resort island of Mustique. There are pictures of both youngsters, shot with a long lens, with the biggest coverage going to Middleton in a bikini.
The Daily Star today proclaimed that "William is clearly head over heels in love with his dark-haired beauty -- who could soon be his financeé. And at the bottom of its story, The Star notes one betting agency quotes odds of 10-1 that the pair will get engaged while on the island.
As with much royal coverage, the report is simply conjecture, without any factual support or even unnamed sources. But it seems this is too good a story to wait for facts and sourcing. Last week Reuters news agency reported there is "feverish speculation about a royal engagement," citing a March 25 newspaper headline that shouted "Kate takes William on holiday -- but will he pop the question?"
Today's tabloids do not mention the prospect of an engagement, however, though they do devote a lot of space to the Mustique photos.
So what's going on? Do the bookies know something the rest of us do not? Are reporters who cover the British royal family holding back a big scoop, waiting for the right moment? It is hard to say. The only guidance from royal sources that has been made public so far is that William has in the past said that he did not want to get married until he is at least 28 or 30. But that hasn't stopped some of the tabloids from breathless speculation that the prince will fall to his knees on the beach and ask Kate to become the future queen. It would be a great story, if it were true. But as yet, there is nothing substantial to hang it on.
British tabloids are renowned for being some of the most aggressive and competitive organizations on earth. If one of them gets a whiff of real, factual news about an engagement, it's highly unlikely it would keep it secret. But tabloid speculation, if it is repeated often enough, tends to take on a life of its own, so much so that the public can sometimes think it is the received wisdom.
William is a very popular prince. He is handsome, smart, shy and scandal-free, which is more than can be said of many other royals. It's probably safe to say that his subjects want to see him happy. Do they believe that his happiness is best assured by getting married soon? Or do many believe he should enjoy his bachelorhood a few more years? There are no definitive polls. But if he does get engaged soon, his public will likely wish him well.
So the saga of William and Kate makes for a great story. But watch it with an eye on the facts, not just the photos and the bookies' odds.