Prince William is a man under pressure: Under pressure from scoop-starved royal reporters, under pressure from recession-weary Brits and, apparently, under pressure from his friends. He's under pressure to go ahead and ask longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton to marry him.
An off the cuff remark at his best friend's wedding Friday has quickened pulses once again. William was mocked by the groom who joked, "You're next!"
One newspaper now claims they will absolutely, no doubt about it, wed in 2011. "It's a Done Deal," claims the News of the World. "They've already set a date."
But we've been here before. Rumors of an impending engagement have ebbed and flowed for years.
This spring a French magazine reported that royals across Europe had been told to keep their schedules clear for a big wedding. "There was a rumor that William was going to get married this year," Ingrid Seward, the editor of Majesty Magazine said today. "But the queen was very worried, because of the recession, to be seen to be spending anything."
So now it's apparently the recession that has delayed the path of royal love. William's military career has also gotten in the way. William and Kate have been together since their college days. She first caught his eye while modeling lingerie in a student fashion show. Apart from a brief break in 2007, they've been an item for eight years, and that's a long time to keep a girl waiting. Kate's been dubbed "Waity Katy."
"She's obviously very happy," says Seward. "William's obviously set a date, or a vague date. Or she wouldn't look so relaxed."
In his one and only public statement on the matter, William said a few years ago that he would not get married before 2010. He's got things to do, places to go, nightclubs to enjoy before really setting down to a life of matrimonial and royal duty.
"They might as well have their fun now," says Seward. "Because the minute they get married all eyes of the world will be on them all the time."
The excitement at the thought of a wedding and the expectation of an engagement are building for a number of reasons. First of all, most Brits love the pageantry of a royal wedding, and it's been a long time since we saw a future king married. The whole country stopped for Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981. Not so much for Charles's second, subdued trip to the altar with Camilla in 2005.
Also, Kate Middleton is an intriguing figure. She's what the Brits call a "commoner." She is not of aristocratic stock. Not a traditional choice for a royal bride. Her mother was a flight attendant; her father is a successful businessman. She has the looks of a movie star, but the common touch. It's a fairytale. The little girl who marries the prince.