When will William wed?

Happy news from the royal household has been rare these last few years. The last birth dates back to November 2003 when Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son Prince Edward had a daughter, Lady Louise.

And there was a marriage in 2005, that of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, but it was more about normalising a long-term relationship that had caused scandal in the past.

Since then the media and souvenir merchants have become restless: Will 2007 be the year of Prince William and the return to glamour?

On Saturday, the Daily Mail raised the possibility of an engagement party during the Christmas holidays, when the royal family will gather in Sandringham, eastern England.

The official announcement would then come in the spring, according to the daily which said Kate was invited to dinner on December 24 at Sandringham, an unprecedented event for a royal girlfriend, and would also join William and his family for Christmas Day services.

Buckingham Palace neither confirmed nor denied the report, citing the privacy of the event.

The courtship of Kate

For three years, 24-year-old William, the older son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, has been dating Kate Middleton, a brunette of the same age whom he met while he was studying geography and she art history at St Andrews University in Scotland.

They shared the same apartment with other students and quickly became inseparable. Signs increasingly point to marriage, even if the couple do nothing to confirm it.

Their first public appearance together happened on the ski slopes of the Swiss resort at Klosters in April 2004. Then there was the first meeting with the queen in her Scottish castle at Balmoral.

The first public kiss was in the spring this year, also at Klosters. And for several months, Kate has been taking riding lessons, a virtual requirement for anyone who might want to enter a royal household passionate about horses.

In anticipation of a hypothetical engagement, the tabloid press has given Kate little breathing space, showing her in a bikini during a vacation with William in Ibiza, shopping in London, and during a night out at a club with the prince’s double.

Nothing escapes them, including the first job she landed in late November.

Kate Middleton now buys accessories for Jigsaw, a British clothing chain whose owners are friends of her parents, themselves owners of an Internet company.

Souvenirs at the ready

With impatience growing about their plans, some firms are taking no risks.

The Woolworth department store chain recently negotiated contracts for 20 souvenir items showing the smiling faces of the prince and his beauty: cups, china ware, and even computer mouses.

All that must be added to them is a wedding date.

Other firms have taken the precaution to register Internet sites, such as willandkate.co.uk, willandkate.com, williamandkate.net

But neither of the two has said anything.

When identical rumours were making the rounds last year, Prince William clearly discouraged them. “I don’t want to get married until I am at least 28 or maybe 30,” William said.

For Ingrid Seward, an expert on the British monarchy, a wedding is not particularly pressing.

“I can’t see them getting married soon because William isn’t settled in his life yet,” Seward said.

After Sandhurst, he must continuing serving in the armed forces for around another three years.

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