The college romance that seemed to falter in the harsh glare of adulthood has blossomed at last, promising Britain its biggest royal wedding since Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer almost 30 years ago.
Royal officials announced Tuesday that Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry next spring or summer in London, ending years of rumored splits, reconciliations and will-they, wont-they speculation.
Charles’ Clarence House office said the heir to the British throne was “delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton.” It said the couple got engaged last month during a vacation in Kenya.
William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Prince Philip “are absolutely delighted for them both,” Buckingham Palace said.
Prime Minister David Cameron was delighted, too, wishing the couple “great joy in their life together.” He said he announced the news during a Cabinet meeting, and it was greeted by cheers and “a great banging of the table.”
The news was not, however, a surprise. Kate and William’s engagement was the safest bet in Britain, and considered so certain that bookies had stopped taking bets on a 2011 wedding. The date avoids London’s Summer Olympics and the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, both being held in 2012.
“We thought it was going to happen, now that it has it’s an opportunity for a welcome national celebration,” said Patrick Jephson, former secretary to Princess Diana.
No venue has been announced yet. For pomp itself, the ceremony is likely to fall between the extraordinary spectacle of Charles and Diana’s 1981 wedding in St. Paul’s Cathedral and Charles’ subdued second marriage to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at Windsor Guildhall in 2005.
William, who is second in line to the throne after Charles, once told an interviewer he wouldn’t marry “until I’m at least 28 or maybe 30.” He turned 28 in June.
Middleton, also 28, met William at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. They shared a student house in the seaside university town, where William initially studied art history before switching to geography.
In 2002, William paid 200 pounds to sit in the front row at a charity fashion show where Middleton was modeling in a daring outfit — they are thought to have started dating the following year.